The Insider

By Jaspreet Gill
October 29, 2019 at 11:13 AM

The Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force is working on a new project this year that will help inform the future of the cyber network.

Brig. Gen. Matt Easley, director of the A.I. Task Force, told Inside Defense in an interview last week the service is still in the "problem formulation stage" of the project, but it will address where vulnerabilities are present in the network. One of the things the task force will be doing is working with data scientists from Army Cyber Command to manage the service's cyber centers by making IT systems more efficient and creating information awareness tools.

"We can have machines do a task first [and] understand what the network looks like," Easley said. "Just having a good situational awareness of what the Army network looks like today and understanding which operating systems each of those systems are on . . . is another key area."

Easley added he's interested to see what industry partners have to say about artificial intelligence technology that will help shape the cyber project at an industry day slated for Nov. 13 in Silver Spring, MD. The event will include a discussion on artificial intelligence prototyping activities, including algorithms, user interface, user experience, training data, data and inference platforms, testing and integration, according to an Oct. 16 Federal Business Opportunities notice.

The notice states the Defense Department is interested in market research on artificial intelligence capabilities including facial recognition, language translation, object detection, tracking and more.

"It's interesting to see what the future is going to be for A.I. for 10 years out and to see some of those [capabilities]," Easley said. "And it's also good just to see who's been taking the current technology, being object recognition technology, self-driving car technology or predictive maintenance technology, and who's been able to use those techniques and show how they can scale these systems and apply them to real problems."

By John Liang
October 28, 2019 at 2:10 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the FY-20 defense policy and spending bills, the Army's artificial intelligence efforts, Navy shipbuilding plans and more.

We start off with a look at the status of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization and appropriations bills:

Defense bills mired in Trump's wall fight as Congress considers alternatives

Congress, despite having agreed to a broad budget deal, has begun looking for stopgaps and schedule extensions for the defense spending and policy bills, which are already overdue and remain stalled amid partisan fighting over President Trump's use of military construction funds to build a southern border wall.

Inside Defense recently interviewed Brig. Gen. Matt Easley, director of the Artificial Intelligence Task Force under Army Futures Command:

New Army data strategy to include artificial intelligence

The Army's new data strategy will include artificial intelligence capabilities to defend the cyber "ecosystem," according to a service official.

DOD officials late last week gave a presentation to the Information and Communications Technology Supply Chain Risk Management Task Force:

CISA supply-chain task force briefed by DOD on aggressive schedule for contractor certification

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency task force on supply-chain security was briefed by a Defense Department official who laid out an aggressive schedule for the Pentagon's plan to certify the cybersecurity practices of contractors, with final revisions expected in December and a "transition" to implementation in January.

With the pending retirement of House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) has thrown his hat into the ring:

Wittman to enter race for House Armed Services Committee ranking member

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) said today he will enter the race to become the next ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The Navy's second-highest-ranking officer spoke last week at the Military Reporters & Editors Conference:

VCNO: Navy can achieve 305-310 ship fleet under current budget plans

The Navy can adequately maintain 305 to 310 ships under its current budget projections, according to the vice chief of naval operations.

Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, recently spoke at the National Defense Industrial Association's annual Expeditionary Warfare conference:

Marine Corps eyeing Long Range Unmanned Surface Vessel for Indo-Pacific region

ANNAPOLIS, MD -- The Marine Corps is evaluating how a Long Range Unmanned Surface Vessel can help the service fight in the vast Indo-Pacific region, as the Navy gears up for a period of great power competition.

Tailkits for the B61-12 warhead are still on schedule:

B61-12 tailkit production schedule not affected by LEP issues, FPU expected in January

The recently revealed schedule deferral and cost increase to the B61-12 warhead life extension program are not affecting the production schedule of its tailkit assembly effort, which will deliver its first flyable units in January, well within the established time frame.

In a recent letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), acting OMB Director Russell Vought said the administration is not on board with Pentagon research and engineering chief Mike Griffin's plan for a Next Generation Interceptor program -- even as the Missile Defense Agency is readying a solicitation to launch a competition for the multibillion-dollar project:

Griffin's plan for Next Generation Interceptor tripped up at White House OMB

The White House Office of Management and Budget is balking at Defense Department plans for a Next Generation Interceptor, exposing a rift inside the Trump administration over how to modernize the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system just weeks after Mike Griffin, the Pentagon's top technology officer, sold Senate appropriators on plans for the new-start program.

By Sara Sirota
October 28, 2019 at 12:06 PM

The Air Force is reaching out to industry suppliers who can provide data science support as part of a multiple-award, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a potential total value of up to $100 million to $500 million.

The opportunity will help the service ensure "data is visible, accessible, understandable, linked and trusted [VAULT] across the air, space and cyberspace domains in order to support data-driven operational decisions," according to slides released on the Federal Business Opportunities website Sunday.

More specifically, the contractors will help transform data into a ready format for the analytical or systems development communities, provide principles and policy to guide data management, develop algorithms for execution on cloud and on-premise infrastructure and conduct analytics using artificial intelligence.

The service is informing potential contractors of requirements during an industry day event today and tomorrow at the Air National Guard Readiness Center at Joint Base Andrews, MD. Sherri Hanson, director of operations in the Air Force Chief Data Office, is expected to present.

The slides state that according to the service's projected acquisition milestones for the contract, which are subject to change, a draft request for proposals will be released in December, followed by a solicitation in January and proposal deadline in February. An award is expected to be made in April, and the ordering period will be between May 2020 and May 2025.

The slides list several data challenges the Air Force faces today, saying the service is "unable to access health and readiness because of limited access to data," "cannot perform robust analytics to make mission decisions," and confronts a growing problem of generating "more data every second and . . . holding data hostage in data jails."

CDO addresses these problem areas with the VAULT data platform that uses an agile approach, prioritizes cloud-native services followed by open-source software, is vendor and product agnostic, has a flexible architecture and decouples compute and storage, per the slides.

By Courtney Albon
October 28, 2019 at 11:25 AM

The Air Force's secretive X-37B spaceplane landed Sunday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center after a record-breaking 780 days on orbit.

This was the spacecraft's fifth mission, launching two years ago from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Mission 4 landed after 718 days. The spacecraft was originally designed to stay on orbit for 270 days.

The X-37B's mission is largely classified. Managed by the Air Force rapid capabilities office, the service uses it for experimentation and prototyping to reduce risk for future space programs.

"The distinctive ability to test new systems in space and return them to Earth is unique to the X-37B program and enables the U.S. to more efficiently and effectively develop space capabilities necessary to maintain superiority in the space domain," the service said in an Oct. 27 press release.

RCO director Randall Walden told reporters Oct. 24, following an Air Force Association breakfast, that the spacecraft hosted small satellites and met all its mission objectives. He said the service hasn't decided whether it will replace the system or pursue a follow-on program.

By Courtney Albon
October 28, 2019 at 11:07 AM

The Pentagon has selected acting Space Development Agency Director Derek Tournear to serve in the role in a permanent capacity.

Tournear has been the agency's acting director since July when Fred Kennedy resigned the post after reported disagreements with Under Secretary for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin.

Prior to his work with SDA, Tournear most recently served as the assistant director for space within Griffin’s office. He also led Harris Space and Intelligence's research and development efforts, served as senior scientist for space activities and technologies at the office of smart collection within the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency and worked as a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The SDA's vision is to unify and coordinate the Defense Department's space architecture, and as director of the agency, Tournear will be the orchestrator of that work.

By John Liang
October 28, 2019 at 10:36 AM

The Defense Department's inspector general plans to begin an evaluation next month of how combatant commands are countering foreign adversaries' use of financial networks to harm the United States and its interests abroad.

"The objective of this evaluation is to determine whether U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command, and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command are planning and executing counter threat finance activities to impact adversaries' ability to use financial networks to negatively affect U.S. interests," an IG memo issued today states. "We will consider suggestions from management on additional or revised objectives."

The evaluation will take place "at the office of the under secretary of defense for policy, office of the assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low intensity conflict, office of the deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats, office of the under secretary of defense for intelligence, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Intelligence Agency, and select combatant commands," according to the memo. "We may identify additional locations during the evaluation."

By John Liang
October 28, 2019 at 9:51 AM

The U.S. Strategic Command Strategic Advisory Group will hold a classified meeting next month, according to a notice in today's Federal Register.

The purpose of the Nov. 19-20 meeting "is to provide advice on scientific, technical, intelligence, and policy-related issues to the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, during the development of the nation's strategic war plans," the notice states.

Topics for discussion, according to the notice, include: "policy issues, space operations, nuclear weapons stockpile assessment, weapons of mass destruction, intelligence operations, cyber operations, global strike, command and control, science and technology, [and] missile defense."

By Tony Bertuca
October 28, 2019 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are scheduled to speak around the Washington area this week, while companies host quarterly earnings calls. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is also expected to release a "skinny version" of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill.

Tuesday

The House Armed Services Committee's Future of Defense Task Force holds a hearing on "theories of victory."

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a nomination hearing for senior Pentagon officials.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds an event on the Air Force of the Future.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds an event on managing risk on technology transfer to China.

Leidos executives will discuss quarterly earnings.

The Professional Services Council hosts its annual Vision Conference.

Wednesday

KBR, L3Harris, ManTech International and Oshkosh executives are set to discuss quarterly earnings.

The Heritage Foundation releases its 2020 Index of Military Strength with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA).

Thursday

The Brookings Institution hosts a discussion with Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) on defense and foreign policy.

The Defense Innovation Board meets in Washington.

Friday

Booz Allen Hamilton executives are slated to review quarterly earnings.

By Justin Doubleday
October 25, 2019 at 7:31 PM

The Defense Department has awarded Microsoft the long-awaited, multibillion-dollar Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud services contract, the Pentagon announced tonight, as DOD picked Microsoft Azure over Amazon Web Services.

The JEDI contract has a ceiling of 10 years and a maximum value of $10 billion. Under the terms of the deal, Microsoft will be responsible for providing a global cloud infrastructure to U.S. military entities across the globe, including in remote areas at the "tactical edge."

"The National Defense Strategy dictates that we must improve the speed and effectiveness with which we develop and deploy modernized technical capabilities to our women and men in uniform," DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said in a statement. "The DOD Digital Modernization Strategy was created to support this imperative. This award is an important step in execution of the Digital Modernization Strategy."

The base contract period is two years with a $1 million guarantee, according to DOD, which added: "The department projects that user adoption will drive an estimated $210 million of spending during the two-year base period. The DOD will rigorously review contract performance prior to the exercise of any options."

The award to Microsoft comes after many months of speculation and rumors swirling around whether Amazon was the presumed winner.

"We're surprised about this conclusion," an AWS spokesman wrote in an email to Inside Defense. "AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing, and a detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings clearly lead to a different conclusion. We remain deeply committed to continuing to innovate for the new digital battlefield where security, efficiency, resiliency, and scalability of resources can be the difference between success and failure."

AWS did not immediately say whether the company would protest the decision.

In 2017, then-Defense Secretary Mattis returned from a trip to the West Coast -- including visits to Amazon and Google headquarters, respectively -- and directed DOD officials to accelerate the adoption of commercial cloud services. The initiative produced the JEDI program, intended to provide an enterprise cloud services option for users across the department at all levels of classification.

Amazon's frontrunner status in the program was spurred by the company's lead in the commercial cloud marketplace and experience providing secure cloud services to the CIA, as well as rumors and lawsuits based on conflict-of-interest allegations. The Pentagon's decision to choose just one cloud provider for the enterprise program also proved contentious.

Shortly after DOD released the JEDI request for proposals in October 2018, Oracle America protested the RFP, first with the Government Accountability Office and then in the Court of Federal Claims. Oracle argued DOD had illegally chosen a single-source strategy and alleged various DOD officials had improper business connections with AWS while working on the program.

However, both GAO and the court shot down Oracle's cases.

"The acquisition process was conducted in accordance with applicable laws and regulations," a DOD spokesman said. "The process cleared review by the GAO and Court of Federal Claims. At the outset the competition included four different offerors. All offerors were treated fairly and evaluated consistently with the solicitation's stated evaluation criteria."

After the Court of Federal Claims dismissed Oracle's case, DOD officials expected to award the JEDI contract by August. But Defense Secretary Mark Esper further delayed the contract when he launched a review of JEDI shortly after being sworn in, following concerns about the program from lawmakers and even President Trump himself.

"Great companies are complaining about it," Trump said of the JEDI program in July, listing both Microsoft and Oracle as examples of such companies. Trump also has a long-running feud with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Meanwhile, the DOD inspector general’s office has been reviewing DOD's handling of the JEDI cloud acquisition since August. Dwrena Allen, a spokeswoman for the DOD IG, said the office is "close to completing the review of the JEDI cloud acquisition" and has not found anything to prevent the award.

"The DOD has consulted the DOD OIG, and we have shared our views on the JEDI acquisition and provided information on the status of our review," Allen said. "To date, we have not found evidence that we believe would prevent the DOD from making a decision about the award of the contract."

She said the office hopes to complete its report by the end of November and release it publicly "to the maximum extent possible."

While some lawmakers raised concerns about the acquisition strategy, others have urged the Pentagon to carry on with the contract, arguing the delays have put DOD behind China in the competition over technologies like AI.

"We're way behind that," House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX) told reporters earlier this week, before the award was made. "What we're doing is we're just trying to have a cloud from which we can operate, which is just essential for all sorts of systems and business practices that are trying to make the department not just more efficient, but just move faster. We get all bogged down in protests."

House Armed Services intelligence, emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee Chairman JIm Langevin (D-RI) applauded DOD for awarding the contract.

"Advanced general-purpose cloud is the industry norm, and it's past time the Department of Defense had access to these capabilities," Langevin said in a statement. "I congratulate DOD CIO Dana Deasy for seeing the JEDI award through. I look forward to continuing to use my position in Congress to increase access to next generation technologies that support our warfighters."

By John Liang
October 25, 2019 at 4:06 PM

Lockheed Martin has added Debra Reed-Klages, a retired energy infrastructure company chief executive, to its board of directors, effective Nov. 1.

Reed-Klages retired in December 2018 from Sempra Energy after more than four decades with the company, finishing up as executive chairwoman, according to a Lockheed statement.

"Debra brings a demonstrated track record of global business leadership and extensive experience in risk management and environmental and sustainability strategies," Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed's chief executive, said in the statement. "Her unique experiences and her focus on technology and innovation will bring valuable perspectives to our board."

Reed-Klages is also a board member of Chevron, Caterpillar Inc. and State Farm Mutual, according to Lockheed.

By John Liang
October 25, 2019 at 2:15 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on an updated cybersecurity standard with implications for the Defense Department plus coverage of missile defense and more.

The length of a review of an updated cybersecurity standard, which has been underway since January, has prompted concerns among industry and government sources including a key Defense Department official who is overseeing the Pentagon's emerging cybersecurity certification program:

Key cybersecurity initiatives stall amid prolonged OMB review of NIST document

The White House Office of Management Budget has been reviewing revised standards by the National Institute of Standards and Technology since the beginning of the year, and the absence of that foundational document on federal data protections has stalled -- or at least frustrated -- key cybersecurity initiatives, including the Pentagon's landmark contractor certification proposal.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) -- who represents a state that hosts the bulk of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System's interceptor fleet -- this week said schedule estimates for fielding a new interceptor "are all over the map" and could take as long as a decade:

Key lawmaker warns RKV termination, time to field NGI could leave U.S. vulnerable

One of the Senate's most vocal missile defense proponents said he was blindsided by the Pentagon's decision in August to terminate the Redesigned Kill Vehicle and raised concern the replacement program -- the new-start Next Generation Interceptor -- could take so long to develop and field it will leave the United States vulnerable to North Korean threats.

A Boeing spokeswoman confirmed to Inside Defense this week that the company has told its suppliers to stop working on the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent effort:

Boeing transitions GBSD employees, issues stop-work order to suppliers

Following the Air Force's decision to stop funding Boeing's contract supporting the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, the company has transitioned its employees to other internal jobs and issued a stop-work order to its suppliers.

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee also weight in this week on GBSD:

Smith says he tried to ensure competition in ICBM replacement program, but was rebuffed by Boeing

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) is concerned the Air Force's $85 billion nuclear missile replacement will likely proceed with Northrop Grumman absent any competition, though he said he offered to help Boeing address its concerns about the program after the company announced it would not bid.

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Bruce Jette, in a recent interview with Inside Defense, acknowledged that some have questioned the authorities of Army Futures Command chief Gen. Mike Murray, but said the worries are unfounded:

Jette: Army Futures Command and ASA(ALT) 'both have the same common goal'

While some lawmakers are concerned about how the Army's new four-star command in charge of modernization will coordinate with the service's acquisition office, the top acquisition executive said this month the relationship is going well.

By Courtney Albon
October 25, 2019 at 1:32 PM

The Air Force has released official solicitations to procure a "limited number" of light-attack aircraft from Textron and a Sierra Nevada and Embraer team.

The service plans to buy two or three each of Textron's AT-6 and Sierra Nevada and Embraer's A-29 as it continues to craft an updated acquisition strategy and experimentation plan to determine the possible scope of a future light-attack aircraft procurement program.

In an Oct. 25 press release, the Air Force confirmed Air Combat Command would use the AT-6 at Nellis Air Force Base, NV, to continue testing of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks with a goal of improving interoperability among international partners.

The A-29 will be sent to Hurlburt Field, FL, to be used by Air Force Special Operations Command to help shape a new instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission that will help meet partner nation demand for light-attack support.

The Air Force announced in January it would continue experimenting with light-attack capabilities and potentially expand the scope of that work rather than select a single provider in the near term. ACC Commander Gen. Mike Holmes has said he expects a more detailed plan will be completed this fall.

The service expects to award Sierra Nevada and Embraer a contract for the near-term A-29 purchases by the end of this year and aims to award Textron for the AT-6 buy in early 2020.

By Justin Katz
October 25, 2019 at 12:25 PM

The Navy announced today the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford (CVN-78) has completed its 15-month maintenance availability and will begin sea trials.

"While at sea off the Virginia coast, the crew, in cooperation with [Newport News Shipbuilding] engineers and shipyard employees, will run through a comprehensive sequence of evolutions to test and validate systems maintained or modified during the extended maintenance period," according to the Navy statement.

The first-in-class ship's maintenance period has faced delays and intense congressional scrutiny. This week Navy Secretary Richard Spencer defended the service's work on the Ford, one day after a House lawmaker had a tense exchange with the service's top officer overseeing ship maintenance and construction.

By Sara Sirota
October 25, 2019 at 12:22 PM

The Air Force is holding a pitch day for small businesses to present technologies that can support the transition of the service's two major hypersonics prototype efforts into production.

The two prototypes -- the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon and the Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon -- are made by Lockheed Martin and are expected to reach early operational capability by fiscal year 2022.

"A selection of winning companies from the AFWERX 19.2 Open Innovation Small Business Innovation Research call have been invited to pitch based on how their technology contributes to cracking one of the many challenges associated with hypersonic flight," an Air Force press release states.

These challenges may include "mitigating extreme high temperatures, creating unique aerodynamic configurations, and fashioning propulsion systems able to power a weapon at Mach 5 or higher," according to the notice.

The Air Force Research Lab and the Armament Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base, FL, are hosting the event at the Doolittle Institute in Niceville, FL, on Nov. 7. Participating companies are eligible to receive same-day contracts that are worth no more than $750,000.

By Tony Bertuca
October 24, 2019 at 6:03 PM

Prior to her testimony before House impeachment investigators Wednesday, Pentagon official Laura Cooper and her attorney received a letter from Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist reiterating the administration's position that she did not have to cooperate with an inquiry the White House believes is illegitimate.

But Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, testified before impeachment investigators anyway, though she did so after a five-hour delay caused by angry Republican lawmakers who stormed the secure room where she was slated to speak.

The Oct. 22 letter, sent by Norquist to Cooper's attorney Daniel Levin of the law firm White and Case, highlighted the administration's position that the impeachment inquiry is invalid.

"This letter informs you and Ms. Cooper of the Administration-wide direction that Executive Branch personnel 'cannot participate in [the impeachment] inquiry under these circumstances,'" the letter states.

Norquist further notes it is the administration's position that Cooper could not be compelled to testify if subpoenaed.

"In the event that the Committees issue a subpoena to compel Ms. Cooper's appearance, you should be aware that the Supreme Court has held, in United States v. Rumely, 345 U.S. 41 (1953), that a person cannot be sanctioned for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena unauthorized by House Rule or Resolution," the letter states.

A defense official told Inside Defense the letter should not be construed as a threat to Cooper.

"It was simply intended to remind her and the attorney of the administration’s position," the official said.

House impeachment investigators say they are examining whistleblower allegations that Trump held back $400 million in aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Biden is a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The White House's refusal to cooperate has prompted concern about a constitutional crisis, as the U.S. Constitution gives the House "sole power of impeachment."

It remains unclear what Cooper told impeachment investigators Wednesday, but her appearance followed explosive testimony Tuesday by acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, who said he was told Trump was going to withhold the aid package until the Ukrainian president made a public announcement to investigate the Biden family and the 2016 U.S. election.

Senior defense officials told reporters Wednesday the Pentagon is honoring the White House's assertion of executive privilege as grounds for refusing to comply with a subpoena for documents sought in the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

"We're really in uncharted territory here," one official said. "This is very unprecedented."