The Insider

By John Liang
January 3, 2023 at 11:32 AM

This first INSIDER Daily Digest of 2023 has a deep dive into the Air Force's airborne refueling tanker recapitalization effort, an Army helicopter contract protest and all the other news posted during the holiday week.

We start off with a deep dive into the Air Force's airborne refueling tanker recapitalization efforts:

Ahead of a KC-Y RFP, experts weigh anticipated requirements, key features of KC-46 and LMXT

Early this year, the Air Force expects to release requirements for its KC-Y refueling tanker, setting off an acquisition process for a platform that plays a key role in the U.S. military's ability to project power and may cap an on-again, off-again rivalry between two airframes: the Boeing 767 jetliner-derivative KC-46 Pegasus, and the Airbus A330, which has now partnered with Lockheed Martin for U.S. military conversion and is being pitched as the LMXT.

Bell may have to wait a little bit longer to begin work on the Army's next-generation helicopter:

Sikorsky, Boeing protest Army's decision to award FLRAA contract to Bell

Sikorsky and Boeing have filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office against the Army's decision to award the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft contract to Bell.

Here's all the other news we posted during the holiday week:

Defense bill strikes progress payment incentive pilot

The newly enacted Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act has stripped a Senate provision that would have created a new progress payment incentive pilot program, opting for the Government Accountability Office to study the issue.

Cloud computing is the next game-changer, 18th Airborne CTO says

Cloud computing will fundamentally transform the Army's ability to empower commanders to operate from anywhere in the world while improving soldiers' lives, the chief technology officer for "America's Contingency Corps" told Inside Defense.

Congress approves termination of Navy's 'Snakehead' LDUUV program

House and Senate appropriators are supporting the Navy's decision to fully divest from its large unmanned undersea vehicle program and are directing the service to pivot to commercially available UUV technology.

CENTCOM tech chief works to build 'muscle memory' in development cycle

In her first couple months on the job, U.S. Central Command's first-ever technology chief is pushing officials toward "building the muscle memory" for repeated capability iteration.

Army says improving data quality is a priority in addressing GAO predictive maintenance recommendations

In order to address a series of recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office on predictive maintenance listed in a report earlier this month, Army officials say the service must improve its quality of data on the condition of systems.

Cooper talks space policy ahead of retirement

As he prepares to retire from Congress, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), one of the chief lawmakers responsible for creating the Space Force and chair of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said space "is in good shape" under new leadership that's set to take charge in the House but larger cultural shifts are still needed.

Space Force CTIO takes inspiration from video games for digital architecture

The Space Force is advancing efforts to create its own version of the metaverse, which it is calling SpaceVerse, as part of its core focus to build itself into a digital service, according to Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Lisa Costa.

By Briana Reilly
December 30, 2022 at 4:05 PM

Legislative defense leaders today announced the full slate of members tapped to serve on a recently established commission tasked with making recommendations on the use of emerging biotechnology and biomanufacturing in the military.

Though the congressional defense committee’s top Democrats and Republicans had previously announced their joint selection of eight appointees back in March, it wasn’t until nine months later that the final four commissioner slots -- and the panel’s chair and vice chair -- were unveiled.

The 12-member body was created in the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which called on the panel to review advances in emerging biotech, biomanufacturing and related areas while keeping in mind “the methods, means, and investments necessary to advance and secure” development of those technologies.

Helming the so-called National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology is Jason Kelly, the co-founder and CEO of synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks, while Michelle Rozo will take the No. 2 role, according to a press release from the House and Senate Armed Services committees. Rozo, whose membership was first announced today, most recently served as the National Security Council’s director for technology and national security.

Under the FY-22 NDAA, eight of the commission’s members were to be selected by the heads of the armed services committees, while the remaining four positions were to be filled by the House speaker and minority leader, as well as the Senate majority and minority leaders. The four members newly announced today, including Rozo, are: Eric Schmidt, the former Google CEO and first chairman of the Defense Innovation Board; Angela Belcher, who helms MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering; and Dawn Meyerriecks, who most recently served as the deputy director of the CIA for science and technology.

The other members, all of whom were previously named, include four lawmakers: Reps. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), as well as Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Todd Young (R-IN). Also serving on the panel are Paul Arcangeli, an 18-year veteran House Armed Services Committee staffer who retired in spring 2022; Dov Zakheim, a former Defense Department chief financial officer and under secretary of defense; and Alexander Titus, a product strategy and operations lead at Google Research who previously served as the office of the under secretary of defense for research and development’s assistant director for biotechnology.

The law’s text directs the commission to consider a number of things while conducting that review, ranging from ways to grow the nation’s bioeconomy and commercial industry through the development of biotech-enabled capabilities to avenues to establish international standards for biotech, biomanufacturing and digital biosecurity.

Members are expected to submit their initial findings to the congressional defense committees within a year of the commission’s establishment, with a final report due within a two-year timeframe, per the language.

By Tony Bertuca
December 23, 2022 at 2:29 PM

The House voted 225-201 today to pass a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2023, sending the legislation to President Biden for his signature and averting a government shutdown slated for Friday at midnight.

The bill would appropriate $858 billion for national defense in FY-23, with $300 billion for Pentagon modernization and $45 billion in emergency supplemental funding to aid Ukraine.

The bill increases Pentagon procurement by more than $17 billion above what lawmakers enacted in FY-22, while research and development is increased by more than $20 billion.

The final FY-23 topline is nearly 10% higher than what was appropriated for national defense in FY-22, an increase many lawmakers argued was needed to combat historic inflation.

The bill passed the Senate earlier this week 68-29 but ran into heavy GOP opposition in the House, where lawmakers argued they were being sidelined prior to claiming a majority next year. Speeches on the House floor made clear that many partisan battles still lie ahead for the lower chamber.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is vying to become the next House speaker, said on the House floor that the omnibus is a “disgrace.”

“In 11 days, this all changes,” he said. “A new direction is coming. In 11 days, Republicans will deliver.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) responded to McCarthy’s criticism.

“It was sad to hear the minority leader earlier say that this legislation is the most shameful thing to be seen on the House floor in this Congress,” she said. “I can’t help but wonder, had he forgotten January 6th?”

Lawmakers have also “deemed” passed a short-term continuing resolution that would extend stopgap government funding through Dec. 30 in the event the massive omnibus bill cannot be enrolled and signed by Biden in time for the deadline Friday night.

By John Liang
December 23, 2022 at 1:58 PM

Happy Holidays! Inside Defense would like to wish our readers a safe and healthy Holiday Season and a prosperous New Year. The next INSIDER Daily Digest will be issued Jan. 3, 2023.

By John Liang
December 23, 2022 at 1:32 PM

This final INSIDER Daily Digest of 2022 has news on the Marine Corps' CH-53K King Stallion program, cyber provisions in the defense policy bill, a nascent industrial base consortium and more.

The CH-53K King Stallion, which achieved initial operational capability in April, will replace the legacy CH-53E Super Stallion as the Marine Corps’ primary heavy-lift helicopter:

Navy announces full-rate production for CH-53K

The CH-53K King Stallion has been cleared to enter full-rate production, according to a Friday announcement from the Navy.

Our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have the details on all the cyber provisions included in the defense policy bill that the president signed into law today:

Biden signs defense policy bill, asserts limitations on cyber provision addressing info-sharing with Congress

President Biden has signed into law the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, unfurling a broad variety of civilian and Defense Department cybersecurity initiatives, while flagging what the White House views as potential overreach in a provision on cyber information sharing with Congress.

On Dec. 22, the Pentagon put out a notice seeking input on a proposed Industrial Base Policy Consortium:

DOD to stand up new industrial base consortium

The Defense Department intends to establish a new Industrial Base Policy Consortium that will work to allow "the award of projects to move at the pace of innovation," according to a new government notice.

Here's a rundown on the missile defense funding in the omnibus spending bill:

Appropriators want quarterly updates on Guam missile defense project

Congressional appropriators are calling on the Missile Defense Agency to send quarterly updates on progress related to setting up a missile defense system to protect Guam against a Chinese attack.

. . . as well as more details on Space Force procurement in the bill:

House and Senate appropriators add money for new satellite, accelerate missile warning

Lawmakers are poised to add approximately $800 million to both the Space Force's procurement and research accounts to boost satellite communications and missile-warning efforts, according to text of the fiscal year 2023 omnibus spending agreement released by House and Senate appropriators Monday evening.

Happy Holidays!

Inside Defense would like to wish our readers a safe and healthy Holiday Season and a prosperous New Year. The next INSIDER Daily Digest will be issued Jan. 3, 2023.

By Nick Wilson
December 23, 2022 at 11:26 AM

The Navy has awarded General Dynamics Electric Boat a $5.1 billion contract modification for advance procurement and construction of the Columbia-class submarine fleet.

A Wednesday announcement from the company says the funds will be used to support Build II -- the next five ships in the class -- through missile tube production, sustained class maintenance and support, and development of the submarine industrial base.

General Dynamics is the program’s prime contractor, currently building the first-in-class District of Columbia (SBN-826) and Wisconsin (SBN-827). Delivery of SBN-826, the Navy’s top acquisition priority, is expected in fiscal year 2027.

"This award enhances Electric Boat's efforts to maintain the Columbia-class production and delivery schedule,” said General Dynamics Electric Boat President Kevin Graney in a statement included in the release.

“Advance procurement of long-lead-time materials and component construction is critical to the program, and the strategic investments in the development and expansion of the Submarine Industrial Base will help stabilize and grow the supply chain, which increases manufacturing capacity, reduces risk, and ultimately drives timely delivery of submarines to the Navy," Graney’s statement continued.

During the company’s third-quarter earnings call in October, executives reported that the lead ship is 25% complete and remains “on cost and on contract schedule.”

Navy officials have expressed concern over workforce challenges, especially shortages of skilled laborers, which presents a key challenge to maintaining the Columbia-class production schedule.

Service leaders have also indicated they will consider extending the lifespan of some of the Ohio-class submarines to ease the transition from these legacy ballistic missile submarines to the next-generation Columbia class.

By Tony Bertuca
December 23, 2022 at 11:13 AM

President Biden today signed into law the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which supports $858 billion in total defense spending, marking the 62nd consecutive year the bill has become law.

Along with authorizing funding for the U.S. military, the massive bill also serves as a vehicle for several other key pieces of legislation including bills to increase U.S. defense assistance to Taiwan, authorize policy and toplines for the State Department and intelligence community, and more.

Additionally, the bill rolls back the Pentagon COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The White House has said it is disappointed by the move but Biden never threatened a veto.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) praised the bill’s bipartisan support in a statement.

“As I have said before, there’s a lot to be proud of in this bill,” he said. “I want to thank President Biden and everyone involved in this process for the open, bipartisan collaboration that has allowed us to produce an excellent NDAA."

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) said in a statement that the bill will go a long way to help the United States counter China and Russia.

“This NDAA goes a long way toward deterring aggression, preventing and reducing threats and conflicts, and ensuring our nation continues to peacefully prosper,” he said. “It will help the U.S. out-compete China; deter Russian aggression; confront climate change; control the spread of nuclear weapons; and strengthen U.S. supply chains and our cyber defenses. We’ve also seen how NDAA investments can lead to promising scientific breakthroughs with clean energy.”

By Tony Bertuca
December 22, 2022 at 2:26 PM

The Senate voted 68-29 today to pass a $1.7 trillion package to fund the federal government for fiscal year 2023, with $858 billion appropriated for national defense.

The measure, which must be signed into law by midnight Friday to avert a government shutdown, now moves onto the House, where it is expected to pass either today or tomorrow.

The bill contains a $300 billion modernization account for the Defense Department as well as $45 billion in emergency supplemental funding to aid Ukraine.

Under the legislation, Pentagon procurement would be increased by more than $17 billion above what lawmakers enacted in FY-22, while research and development would be boosted by more than $20 billion.

By John Liang
December 22, 2022 at 1:12 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has a scoop on delays to the Space Force's Next Generation Operational Control System as well as news on increased congressional oversight of middle-tier acquisition programs and more.

The Next Generation Operational Control System is facing new delays, and Inside Defense has the scoop:

OCX schedule slips again; delivery not expected until summer 2023

Delivery of the Space Force's long-troubled Next Generation Operational Control System, the modernized ground segment for Global Positioning System satellites, has been delayed again to summer 2023, the service’s acquisition office said in a statement to Inside Defense.

Language included in the fiscal year 2023 bipartisan omnibus defense appropriations bill released this week seeks to get a handle on middle-tier acquisition programs, while aiming to limit the instances in which research and development funds are used to buy "excessive numbers of end-items":

Lawmakers seek changes to accelerated acquisition pathways in approps bill

House and Senate appropriators are pushing to add further guardrails to accelerated middle-tier acquisition authorities, raising concerns over the lack of transparency in cost and capability status tied to the rapid prototyping and fielding pathways.

Inside Defense got to witness the launch of a pair of satellite communication spacecraft that could provide broadband to warfighters in remote areas of responsibility:

SES looks to expand global broadband with new mPOWER satellites

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL -- Nestled atop an oft-reused SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, two satellites built by Boeing for Luxembourg-based satellite telecommunications provider SES lifted off from here the evening of Dec. 16, climbing to medium earth orbit to provide low-latency broadband for users around the globe.

The latest on the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

Pentagon's CMMC program launch faces delay as OMB rulemaking review shifts to January

The Pentagon is planning to submit the first rulemaking under its cyber certification program in January for review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, according to a Defense Department spokeswoman, shifting the official launch timeframe farther down the road than previously expected.

The modified version of a sensitive Government Accountability Office report, initially published in November and released publicly this week, says while DOD is making significant investments in modernizing its aircraft fleet, the department has yet to conduct a comprehensive analysis of its acquisition strategy across its aircraft portfolio:

DOD to conduct first integrated acquisition portfolio review of aircraft fleet

The Defense Department will conduct an integrated acquisition portfolio review of its fixed-wing aircraft within the next one to two fiscal years, in line with advice from government auditors who caution that current practices fail to supply adequate information to departmental and congressional decision makers.

Document: GAO report on tactical aircraft investments

By Tony Bertuca
December 22, 2022 at 10:21 AM

The Senate voted 70-21 today to confirm Franklin Parker as assistant Navy secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, a position he also held during the Obama administration.

Parker was first nominated in January but he became stalled for nearly a year amid Republican resistance to confirming President Biden’s appointees.

Prior to his nomination, Parker worked as a senior counsel in intelligence solutions for BAE Systems.

Parker previously served as assistant Navy secretary for manpower and reserve affairs from 2015 to 2017 under then-President Obama.

By Evan Ochsner
December 22, 2022 at 10:00 AM

The Army's Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors will hold a virtual industry day next month focused on acquisition lead time, according to a service notice.

The Jan. 18 event will include an overview of contract opportunities and their award timelines, as well as a question-and-answer session for industry with representatives from the PEO and Army Contracting Command.

First Multidomain Task Force Commander Brig. Gen. Bernard Harrington will give a presentation on how the PEO’s systems are supporting multidomain operations, according to the notice.

The service encourages participants to submit questions for discussion online after registering for the event.

By Nick Wilson
December 21, 2022 at 5:16 PM

General Dynamics Land Systems will deliver its prototype Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle to the Marine Corps for evaluation on Friday, according to a company announcement.

The vehicle is designed to serve as a "battlefield quarterback," connecting to onboard and offboard sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Delivery will mark the start of formal government evaluation of the vehicle. The prototype will be measured against Textron Systems’ Cottonmouth ARV prototype, which was delivered to the Marine Corps earlier this month.

The Marine Corps selected both General Dynamics and Textron Systems to build ARV prototypes in July 2021.

In addition to the vehicle, General Dynamics delivered a blast hull for survivability testing and a system integration lab, the release states.

The Marine Corps initially viewed the ARV as a replacement for its Light Armored Vehicle, but service Commandant Gen. David Berger’s force design priorities invalidated this need and reshaped the ARV into a more versatile mobile reconnaissance platform to serve as the “quarterback” of manned and unmanned teams.

“The ARV is highly mobile on land and in the water and will allow Marines to sense and communicate like never before. Our design also ensures growth margins and modular open architecture to rapidly incorporate new technology as it develops,” said Phil Skuta, General Dynamics Land Systems director of strategy and business development for Marine Corps and Navy programs, in a statement included in the release.

By John Liang
December 21, 2022 at 1:58 PM

The bulk of this Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has coverage from the fiscal year 2023 omnibus spending package released by congressional appropriators this week.

We start off with Ukraine funding:

New omnibus increases DOD supplemental for Ukraine

The White House initially sought $21 billion in emergency supplemental funding for the Defense Department to continue aiding Ukraine, but a new omnibus appropriations bill set to be passed by Congress would provide more than $28 billion.

. . . Followed by the section on the Pentagon's largest-ever acquisition program:

Lawmakers cover $1.8B F-35 shortfall in omnibus defense spending bill

Lawmakers are freeing up an extra $1.8 billion to secure the next round of F-35 fighter jet purchases after Pentagon leaders warned the overall buy tied to the pending contract was in jeopardy stemming from a funding shortfall.

. . . plus Air Force funding:

House, Senate appropriators poised to increase Air Force procurement

An agreement on the fiscal year 2023 spending package would boost major Air Force purchases of Combat Rescue Helicopters and transport aircraft, according to explanatory text accompanying the omnibus spending bill released Dec. 19 by House and Senate appropriators.

. . . and the Navy:

Omnibus bill funds 11 ships at $31.9B

House and Senate appropriators are providing $31.9 billion for the Navy to buy 11 ships in 2023, the same number as congressional authorizers but falling short by $600 million of the amount the policy bill provides.

. . . as well as the Army:

Omnibus appropriations bill boosts legacy Army programs

The $1.7 trillion omnibus appropriations bill unveiled by Congress Tuesday would boost funding for some of the Army's major ground vehicle and helicopter programs.

By Tony Bertuca
December 21, 2022 at 12:53 PM

(Editor's note: This story has been updated with remarks from a senior defense official.)

The United States has announced a $1.8 billion military aid package for Ukraine, including the first-ever transfer to Ukraine of the Patriot air and missile defense system and Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which will provide enhanced precision strike capabilities against invading Russian military forces.

The announcement was made in advance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s planned visit to Washington on Wednesday.

The Patriot system is capable of shooting down cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles and aircraft at higher altitudes that previously provided systems.

A senior defense official who briefed reporters after the announcement, however, said it would take months of training before Ukrainians are ready to use the Patriot system.

“It is a several-month training process and we're working through the details of the training right now,” the official said, declining to provide a location for the training.

The official also stressed the Patriot system being transferred will not be connected to NATO’s military infrastructure in any way.

“It will be a system for Ukraine to operate on its own,” the official said. “This is not a NATO-operated system.”

The State Department said the funding includes $1 billion in U.S. arms that will be directly transferred to Ukraine via presidential “drawdown” authority, and $850 million in arms that will be provided by working directly with defense contractors under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

The $1 billion PDA funding includes:

• one Patriot air defense battery and munitions;

• additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems;

• 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds;

• 10 120mm mortar systems and 10,000 120mm mortar rounds;

• 10 82mm mortar systems;

• 10 60mm mortar systems;

• 37 Cougar Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles;

• 120 humvees;

• six armored utility trucks;

• high-speed anti-radiation missiles;

• precision aerial munitions;

• over 2,700 grenade launchers and small arms;

• claymore anti-personnel munitions;

• demolition munitions and equipment;

• night vision devices and optics;

• tactical secure communications systems;

• body armor

The $850 million USAI package, which will not arrive in Ukraine as rapidly as the PDA equipment, includes:

• 45,000 152mm artillery rounds;

• 20,000 122mm artillery rounds;

• 50,000 122mm GRAD rockets;

• 100,000 rounds of 125mm tank ammunition;

• satellite communication terminals and services;

• funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment.

The United States has committed approximately $21.3 billion since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine

Meanwhile, Congress is set to vote on a massive fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations bill that includes $45 billion in additional emergency supplemental funding related to the U.S. response to the war Ukraine.

By Dan Schere
December 21, 2022 at 10:10 AM

The Army has awarded a $95.8 million contract to Lockheed Martin for the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight, a night-vision system used by Apache helicopter pilots.

Fielded in 2005, the system gives pilots long-range precision engagement and “pilotage capabilities,” according to Lockheed Martin. The system can aid pilots during the day, at night and during adverse weather conditions.

Since it was fielded 17 years ago, more than 1,350 of the systems and spares have been delivered to the Army and international customers, according to the company.

The contract has a completion date of Nov. 30, 2027, according to a Dec. 19 Defense Department notice.