The Insider

By John Liang
January 8, 2020 at 2:49 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA program, possible Iranian cyber threats, the Strategic Capabilities Office's new leadership and more.

The Standard Missile-3 Block IIA program will soon move to the production phase:

DOT&E backed SM-3 Block IIA decision, set to determine operational effectiveness, suitability

The Pentagon's top weapons tester supported a production recommendation last fall for the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA and next month will determine the system's operational effectiveness and operational suitability, according to a Defense Department spokesman.

The reduced risk of imminent military hostilities between the United States and Iran does not clear the decks of possible cyber risks from the latter country:

As Iran military situation eases, long-term cybersecurity threat remains in place

President Trump today suggested a de-escalation in the military confrontation with Iran along with new sanctions against that country, an evolving dynamic that may do little to diminish the lingering threat of cyberattacks targeting U.S. critical infrastructure.

The Pentagon's Strategic Capabilities Office has a new leader:

Griffin recruits new SCO director from NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate

Mike Griffin, the Pentagon's top technology officer, has recruited a senior NASA appointee to head the Strategic Capabilities Office, setting the stage for the start of a new chapter for an organization that was the object of a bureaucratic turf fight during much of 2019 that Griffin waged and lost.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency this week published a broad agency announcement for a "Sea Trains" program, which seeks ways to "overcome the range limitations inherent for [MUSVs] by exploiting wave-making resistance reductions":

DARPA launches 'Sea Trains' program, eyeing easier movement of medium USVs

The Pentagon's advanced research arm recently announced a new three-year program focused on improving medium unmanned surface vessels' ability to move in formation through rough waters.

Document: DARPA BAA for Sea Train

The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board is taking part in studies on autonomous systems and communications technologies:

AFSAB to study JADC2, autonomy, space in FY-20

The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board in fiscal year 2020 is conducting three studies under the direction of the service's secretary that focus on modern communications technology, autonomous systems and space applications, according to a notice published in December.

Document: AFSAB terms of reference memos for CFE, UBA studies

By Tony Bertuca
January 8, 2020 at 12:06 PM

President Trump said today Iran appears to be "standing down" after a series of ballistic missile strikes yesterday hit two Iraqi military bases that house U.S. personnel in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Though the Pentagon says assessments are ongoing, Trump said there were no U.S. casualties and the damage from the strikes was "minimal."

Trump made no mention of retaliatory U.S. strikes on Iran but said the administration will continue to "evaluate options."

Trump said "additional punishing economic sanctions" would be placed on Iran and that he is going to ask NATO nations to become "much more involved" in the Middle East.

Last night, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles targeting two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil. It is not yet known if there were any Iraqi casualties.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted last night that Iran took "proportionate measures in self-defense. . . . We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression."

Trump also noted that ISIS is a "natural enemy of Iran" and that the United States and Iran should work together to defeat the group.

"We should work together on this and other shared priorities," he said. "The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it."

By Mallory Shelbourne
January 7, 2020 at 5:20 PM

Lawmakers from Maine are questioning the Pentagon about possible cuts to Navy shipbuilding, imploring the service to continue pursuing its goal of a 355-ship fleet.

In a Jan. 6 letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Sens. Angus King (I-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) expressed concern the cuts to shipbuilding could affect the industrial base.

"As you continue to develop and finalize the Department's [fiscal year] 2021 budget request, we urge you to reverse course from cutbacks to shipbuilding plans that may be under deliberation and to support a 355-ship Navy," the letter reads.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly and Acting White House Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought are both copied on the letter.

The document refers to possible shipbuilding cuts detailed in a back-and-forth memo between the Pentagon and the White House about the FY-2021 budget submission.

The document, obtained last month by Inside Defense, predicts the Navy buying five fewer Arleigh Burke Flight III destroyers than the service projected in its FY-20 future years defense program and 30-year shipbuilding tables.

"One of the proposed budget cuts would reportedly reduce by five the number of Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers planned for construction over the next five years," Collins and King write in the Jan. 6 letter.

"DDG-51s are truly the workhorses of the Navy worldwide, conducting freedom of navigation missions in the South China Sea, leading maritime security patrols in the North Atlantic, and deterring Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf," the senators continue.

Maine is home to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, which is one of two contractors building the Flight III vessels.

In the dialogue between the Pentagon and White House, OMB instructed the Defense Department to complete an evaluation of how the cuts to shipbuilding could affect the industrial base.

By Tony Bertuca
January 7, 2020 at 3:21 PM

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said today the United States wants to "de-escalate" tensions with Iran after President Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq last week.

"We are not looking to start a war with Iran, but we are prepared to finish one," Esper said at the Pentagon.

The secretary said Soleimani was a "legitimate target" who was "clearly on the battlefield" planning military operations against the United States.

"His time was due," Esper said.

Now, the defense secretary said, the Trump administration wants Tehran to "sit down" with the United States and find a diplomatic solution.

Esper also disputed media reports quoting unnamed government officials who called the Trump administration's claim of classified intelligence linking Soleimani to an imminent threat against Americans "razor thin."

Esper said it was a matter of "days, for sure," before Soleimani’s planned attack against the United States played out.

Details about the intelligence that bolstered the case for a U.S. airstrike that killed Soleimani at a Baghdad airport have yet to be publicly disclosed, though some members of Congress are scheduled to receive classified briefings.

Esper also said U.S. troops will not be withdrawn from Iraq, despite the surfacing of an unsigned "draft letter" that indicated American forces would soon depart.

"Our policy has not changed," he said. "We are not leaving Iraq."

Esper said a recent vote in the Iraqi parliament directing U.S. forces to withdraw is "non-binding," noting many lawmakers boycotted the vote.

Additionally, Esper said the U.S. military will continue to follow the international laws of armed conflict, despite a tweet from President Trump saying the United States planned to target Iranian cultural sites should Tehran retaliate militarily for Soleimani’s killing, an action that would be considered a war crime.

"I'm fully confident the commander-in-chief would not give us an illegal order," Esper said.

By John Liang
January 7, 2020 at 2:03 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on when the next budget submission will be sent to Congress, plus a number of Air Force Scientific Advisory Board studies and more.

We now know when the Pentagon's fiscal year 2021 budget request will be submitted to Congress:

White House will submit FY-21 budget Feb. 10

The White House will submit the fiscal year 2021 budget request on Feb. 10, according to Chase Jennings, press secretary for the Office of Management and Budget.

The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board is taking part in studies on autonomous systems and communications technologies:

AFSAB to study JADC2, autonomy, space in FY-20

The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board in fiscal year 2020 is conducting three studies under the direction of the service's secretary that focus on modern communications technology, autonomous systems and space applications, according to a notice published in December.

Document: AFSAB terms of reference memos for CFE, UBA studies

The Defense Science Board has released a public summary of a classified report on the National Leadership Command Capability:

DSB recommends three-part strategy to improve National Leadership Command Capability

A Pentagon advisory board is calling for a more "defensible and resilient" National Leadership Command Capability to shore up weaknesses in the command and control systems used by the president and critical to ensuring continuity of government during a national crisis.

Document: Unclassified version of DSB report on NLCC

Our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have a deep dive into the potential ways Iran could use cyber warfare against the United States as retaliation for the assassination of a senior Iranian general:

Heightened U.S.-Iran tensions may bring 'national reckoning' in cyberspace

The U.S. attack on Iran's top general has the cybersecurity community bracing for possible retaliation in cyberspace, while also pointing to the security tools that are in place and the ongoing policy needs that are highlighted by the latest -- perhaps most serious -- clash with a known international cyber aggressor.

Lawmakers are having second thoughts about the Pentagon's chief management officer position:

Congress shifts 'chief data officer' away from CMO's office as Pentagon finalizes data strategy

Congress has shifted the Defense Department's chief data officer position away from the endangered chief management office, while Pentagon officials say the first department-wide data strategy is awaiting Defense Secretary Mark Esper's signature.

The Office of Naval Research is no longer in charge of developing the Sea Hunter unmanned surface vehicle:

Navy shifts Sea Hunter to advance USV development, fleet familiarization, CONOPS

The Navy last month transferred administrative control of the trimaran Sea Hunter -- an experimental prototype medium unmanned surface vehicle that helped launch plans for a fleet of medium and large USVs -- from the Office of Naval Research to Surface Development Command One, on behalf of the Unmanned Maritime Systems program office (PMS-406).

Related: Navy directs CONOPs development for two major unmanned programs

By Ashley Tressel
January 6, 2020 at 4:42 PM

The Army has canceled an industry day for the Extended Range Cannon Artillery Increment 2 program, the service announced today.

The industry day was slated to cover an operational overview, acquisition strategy overview, key system capabilities and the development efforts of the Army's Armaments Center and was meant to be the first in a series of engagements through the second quarter of fiscal year 2020.

The Army's updated notice does not give a reason for the cancellation.

By Mallory Shelbourne
January 6, 2020 at 3:57 PM

The Navy will need to spend $380 billion in the next 30 years to sustain the size of today's aviation fleet, according to a new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.

"The replacement of fighter/attack aircraft would represent the largest fraction of overall costs from 2020 through 2050, totaling about $190 billion, roughly half of the total for all aircraft," the report reads.

CBO notes the cost estimate for buying new aircraft is in 2018-year dollars.

According to the analysis, it would cost the service $11 billion each year between 2020 and 2030 to purchase new aircraft.

"Costs would drop temporarily after 2030 as several large programs -- the MV-22B tiltrotor, the CH-53K helicopter, and the F-35B/C fighters -- began to wind down or ended," the report continues, referring to the Marine Corps' Osprey, its heavy-lift helicopter and the two F-35 Joint Strike Fighter variants the Marine Corps and Navy are purchasing.

CBO estimates the cost of buying new aircraft between 2034 and 2050 at $14 billion each year.

By John Liang
January 6, 2020 at 1:57 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a recently completed Defense Science Board report on the National Leadership Command Capability, the Pentagon's chief management officer position, the Sea Hunter unmanned surface vehicle and more.

The Defense Science Board has released a public summary of a classified report on the National Leadership Command Capability:

DSB recommends three-part strategy to improve National Leadership Command Capability

A Pentagon advisory board is calling for a more "defensible and resilient" National Leadership Command Capability to shore up weaknesses in the command and control systems used by the president and critical to ensuring continuity of government during a national crisis.

Document: Unclassified version of DSB report on NLCC

Lawmakers are having second thoughts about the Pentagon's chief management officer position:

Congress shifts 'chief data officer' away from CMO's office as Pentagon finalizes data strategy

Congress has shifted the Defense Department's chief data officer position away from the endangered chief management office, while Pentagon officials say the first department-wide data strategy is awaiting Defense Secretary Mark Esper's signature.

The Office of Naval Research is no longer in charge of developing the Sea Hunter unmanned surface vehicle:

Navy shifts Sea Hunter to advance USV development, fleet familiarization, CONOPS

The Navy last month transferred administrative control of the trimaran Sea Hunter -- an experimental prototype medium unmanned surface vehicle that helped launch plans for a fleet of medium and large USVs -- from the Office of Naval Research to Surface Development Command One, on behalf of the Unmanned Maritime Systems program office (PMS-406).

Our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have a deep dive into the potential ways Iran could use cyber warfare against the United States as retaliation for the assassination of a senior Iranian general:

Heightened U.S.-Iran tensions may bring 'national reckoning' in cyberspace

The U.S. attack on Iran's top general has the cybersecurity community bracing for possible retaliation in cyberspace, while also pointing to the security tools that are in place and the ongoing policy needs that are highlighted by the latest -- perhaps most serious -- clash with a known international cyber aggressor.

More cyber news:

Early 2020 presents major regulatory milestones for U.S. cyber acquisition revisions

The next two months could be crucial for the federal government's landmark efforts in setting cybersecurity requirements for contractors and agencies to protect national security and other information from foreign adversaries, with a proposed rule later this month and comments due in February on banning Huawei and other China-based tech products.

By Tony Bertuca
January 6, 2020 at 11:10 AM

(Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information.)

Eric Chewning, chief of staff to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, will be resigning at the end of the month and will be succeeded by Jen Stewart, currently the minority staff director for the House Armed Services Committee, according to a Pentagon statement.

Chewning joined DOD in October 2017 as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy, where he oversaw a major defense industrial base review. He became the chief of staff to acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan in January 2019.

"I'm grateful for Eric's professionalism, judgment, and leadership over the last seven months as I moved into the secretary of defense role," Esper said in a statement. "In an incredibly demanding job, Eric has been a source of calm and tireless work. He will be missed by all. We wish him all the best upon his return to the private sector."

Stewart previously served as a senior adviser to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, and as the national security adviser to former House Speakers Paul Ryan (R-WI) and John Boehner (R-OH).

"I have known Jen for years and I'm excited to bring her into the department," Esper said. "Her deep expertise on national security issues will be a great addition to our team as we continue implementing the National Defense Strategy."

The House Armed Services Committee released a statement saying Stewart will be succeeded by Dan Sennott, currently a counselor and the Republican staff lead for the military personnel subcommittee. Sennott joined the committee in 2015 following 20 years in the Army.

Chewning is the latest in a string of senior leadership departures at DOD.

Pentagon Press Secretary Alyssa Farah said DOD "continues to bring in high quality personnel into leadership positions."

She noted that three new Senate-confirmed appointees will be sworn in this week, while three nominees await action in the Senate.

"And additional nominations are expected in coming weeks," she said. "Also this week, four new [senior executive service] SES appointees will be sworn in, joining approximately a dozen senior SES leaders brought into the Department in the last few months of 2019."

By Jaspreet Gill
January 6, 2020 at 10:31 AM

The Army is seeking multidomain equipment support for the MQ-1C Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System.

A Jan. 2 request for information states the Army is looking for payload systems and sensors to be integrated into the UAS “to penetrate defense-in-depth anti-access and area denial environments and sense, identify and geolocate enemy threat radar as well a communications systems that are encompassed in the Air Defense Systems.”

The service is looking for multidomain hardware and software systems with a technology readiness level of six or greater to detect and share information on enemy threats, such as radar warning receivers/electronic support measures, electronic intelligence payload systems and synthetic aperture radar/moving target indicator systems.

The notice also says the integration of MDO support equipment onto the MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAS operating above 20,000 feet is a near-term demonstration goal for the service.

Responses are due Jan. 27.

By Marjorie Censer
January 6, 2020 at 10:11 AM

CACI International said today it has named retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Nagata a corporate strategic adviser and senior vice president.

"In this role, Mr. Nagata will lead corporate efforts to advance CACI's presence in national security, support the development and evolution of CACI corporate strategy, and support the development and expansion of key client relationships," the company said.

He most recently was director of the National Counterterrorism Center's strategic and operational planning directorate. Nagata previously served as commander of Special Operations Command Central.

By Marjorie Censer
January 6, 2020 at 5:00 AM

There are few events as Washington gets back to work after the holidays, but two military officials will speak at events Friday.

Friday

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies hosts a breakfast with Maj. Gen. John Shaw, combined force space component commander at U.S. Space Command and commander of 14th Air Force.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy is set to discuss the service's strategy in the Indo-Pacific at the Brookings Institution.

By Marjorie Censer
January 3, 2020 at 2:45 PM

S&P Global Ratings said today it has lowered the credit rating of Constellis Holdings after the company "failed to make a mandatory principal payment on its $872 million first-lien term loan."

In a rationale provided for its action, S&P said Constellis defaulted on Dec. 31 when it didn't make a mandatory $2 million quarterly principal payment.

"We view this action as a selective default, given our previous expectation that Constellis would miss its next principal or interest payment as part of the plan laid out when the company entered into its new $110 million priority first-lien term loan," S&P added. "There is no change to our issue-level ratings or recovery ratings on the other, unaffected credit facilities including the new priority term loan and the $215 million second-lien term loan."

S&P wrote that Constellis' new credit facility "requires that Constellis present a debt restructuring plan by Feb. 4, 2020, likely resulting in a transaction that we would view as a distressed exchange or a prepackaged bankruptcy filing."

Constellis was created by combining some assets of Blackwater with other companies, including Triple Canopy and Centerra Group.

In a statement today, the company said it "recently closed on a $110 million delayed-draw credit facility provided by a subset of its existing lenders."

"We appreciate the continued support our lenders expressed through this new financing," Constellis continued. "As part of this financing process, we have entered into a forbearance agreement, which provides additional time and flexibility to continue discussions around de-levering and recapitalizing our balance sheet."

Constellis added that it "plans to continue to operate our business, execute our business strategy and meet our obligations to our stakeholders."

By John Liang
January 3, 2020 at 1:44 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Navy unmanned surface vessels, a nascent Defense Science Board study, new Pentagon guidance on "middle-tier" acquisition programs and more.

The Navy's surface forces chief is expected to submit a final draft of a concept of operations for Medium and Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles by Sept. 15:

Navy directs CONOPs development for two major unmanned programs

The Navy last month directed its top surface warfare officer to develop the concepts of operations for two major unmanned surface vessel programs, according to a Dec. 19 message to the fleet.

A new Defense Science Board study is underway:

Griffin eyes 'all powers of the state' to inoculate U.S. from China, Russia delivering strategic surprise

An influential Pentagon advisory panel is launching a new study to investigate potential new dimensions of conflict that China and Russia might employ to impose their will on other states beyond conventional military force, and seeks recommendations for a modernization blueprint that, in turn, puts the U.S. military at the vanguard of innovating new forms of conflict.

Document: DSB terms of reference memo for new dimensions of conflict study

The Defense Department now has guidelines on how to run fast-track "middle-tier" acquisition programs:

Pentagon publishes final guidance for fast-track 'middle-tier' weapons programs

The Pentagon has finalized guidance outlining how the military services should run fast-track "middle-tier" acquisition programs, with the Defense Department acquisition chief asserting the power to determine when a program is not appropriate for the streamlined process.

Document: DOD instruction on middle tier of acquisition management

Our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have an early look at the cybersecurity efforts the Pentagon will be undertaking in the first couple months of this year:

Early 2020 presents major regulatory milestones for U.S. cyber acquisition revisions

The next two months could be crucial for the federal government's landmark efforts in setting cybersecurity requirements for contractors and agencies to protect national security and other information from foreign adversaries, with a proposed rule later this month and comments due in February on banning Huawei and other China-based tech products.

In case you missed it, the first story we posted in the new year takes a deep dive into the issues defense industry advocates will be monitoring in 2020:

Ready for 2020: Defense industry advocates and experts detail top issues

Defense industry advocates say they expect a busy year as the Pentagon takes up new measures, such as the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification. However, the coming election could add some uncertainty.

By Justin Katz
January 3, 2020 at 1:05 PM

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly says he plans to make recommendations to the defense secretary on how the service can achieve a 355-ship fleet within 10 years.

"I'm actually here today at the U.S. Naval Institute. I've gathered together a group of both folks from inside the Navy . . . and the Marine Corps and a bunch of outside experts and academics and folks who have looked at force structure for years," Modly said today on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt's radio program.

"We're going to sit down and talk this through and we're going to come up with some recommendations for [Defense] Secretary [Mark] Esper and ultimately for him to bring to the president to say, 'Look, this is the path that we need to be on to get to the number that you want,'" Modly continued.

The remarks from Modly come several weeks after a White House Office of Management and Budget memo revealed the administration wants the Navy to count unmanned vessels in its battleforce ship count. OMB directed the Pentagon to submit a legislative proposal that would do as much.

Meanwhile, the results of the Navy's latest force structure assessment are expected to be published later this month.