The Insider

By Marjorie Censer
December 23, 2020 at 3:39 PM

The Government Accountability Office said today 2,149 protests were filed in fiscal year 2020, down about 2% from the prior year.

In its annual report, which is sent to Congress, GAO said it sustained 15% of the protests it decided, up from 13% last year.

"Our review shows that the most prevalent reasons for sustaining protests during the 2020 fiscal year were: (1) unreasonable technical evaluation; (2) flawed solicitation; (3) unreasonable cost or price evaluation; and (4) unreasonable past performance evaluation," GAO wrote. "It is important to note that a significant number of protests filed with our Office do not reach a decision on the merits because agencies voluntarily take corrective action in response to the protest rather than defend the protest on the merits."

GAO reported a 51% effectiveness rate, defined as the protester "obtaining some form of relief from the agency . . . either as a result of voluntary agency corrective action or our office sustaining the protest." The figure is the highest effectiveness rate in the last five years.

By Tony Bertuca
December 23, 2020 at 3:35 PM

(Editor's Note: This has been updated with statements from lawmakers.)

President Trump has vetoed the $740.5 billion defense authorization bill, positioning himself to possibly be overridden by Congress shortly before he leaves office.

The 4,500-page bill has already passed the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, though it is possible some Republicans would be unwilling to buck the lame-duck president and could change their votes. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who has already voted for the bill, has said he does not plan to override the president.

The House plans to return from its holiday break Dec. 28 and vote to override Trump's veto, while the Senate is slated to return Dec. 29. Lawmakers were originally due back Jan. 3.

In a statement to Congress, Trump said he is vetoing the bill because it includes a provision to rename U.S. military bases that honor Confederate leaders and does not repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act used to limit liability of social media companies.

Trump also cited provisions in the bill that he said would restrict his ability to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Germany and South Korea.

“I will not approve this bill, which would put the interests of the Washington, D.C. establishment over those of the American people,” Trump said.

The bill has been signed into law for 59 consecutive years. Lawmakers from both parties, meanwhile, have warned it would be nearly impossible to resurrect the bill in January as a new Congress will be seated, and the committee consideration process would need to be repeated.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), a key Trump ally on Capitol Hill, released a statement praising the president for his past support for military spending and urged Congress to act to ensure U.S. troops have what they need. However, he did not explicitly call for an override.

“Our men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform shouldn’t be denied what they need -- ever,” Inhofe said. “This [bill] cements all the remarkable gains our military has made thanks to President Trump’s leadership and sends a strong message of support to our service members and their families. I hope all of my colleagues in Congress will join me in making sure our troops have the resources and equipment they need to defend this nation. We can and should use another legislative vehicle to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act -- a priority the president and I share.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) struck a much different tone.

“The FY-21 [defense authorization bill] passed with overwhelming, veto-proof support in both the House and Senate, and I remain confident that Congress will override this harmful veto,” he said in a statement. “While the president may not care about our service members and their families, Congress still places an immense value on their service and sacrifice.”

Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Eric Fanning released a statement urging Congress to override the president.

“The president’s veto undermines our national security preparedness and jeopardizes the jobs of Americans who make up our defense industrial base at a time when the country is in crisis,” Fanning said. “It is also a letdown for our troops and their families, both of who selflessly continue to serve our country. We urge Congress to prioritize national security and override this veto.”

Meanwhile, Trump has also thrown a massive, end-of-year spending bill into limbo, saying the COVID-19 relief package it contains should provide a more generous stimulus for individuals.

But Trump has not yet threatened to veto the spending bill, which he has until Dec. 28 to sign.

By Tony Bertuca
December 23, 2020 at 1:44 PM

President-elect Biden's transition team today continued to assert that the Pentagon is blocking its efforts to prepare for the change in administration.

"As the President-elect noted yesterday, the Department of Defense has continued to refuse to meet with our agency review team members," Biden spokesman Ned Price said today. "There has been no substantial progress since transition officials spoke to the intransigence of the department's political leadership late last week. As we said then, no department is more pivotal to our national security than the Department of Defense, and an unwillingness to work together could have consequences well beyond January 20."

In a press conference yesterday, Biden said he was troubled by DOD's recalcitrance, especially considering the continued COVID-19 crisis and a massive cyber intrusion.

"The Defense Department won't even brief us on many things," Biden said of the hack. "So, I know of nothing that suggests it's under control. This president hasn't even identified who's responsible yet."

While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior administration officials have said the hack is the work of a Russian spy agency, Trump has suggested China could be responsible.

A senior defense official who declined to be named sent reporters an email this morning contradicting Biden's statement about transition cooperation, but the Pentagon has not provided an official statement.

Meanwhile, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said last week the Pentagon will cease briefing Biden transition officials until after Jan. 1 because both teams have agreed to a "holiday break."

But the Biden team says that it is untrue and that they did not agree to a pause.

"No, there was no mutually agreed upon holiday break," Biden spokesman Yohannes Abraham said last week. "In fact, we think it's important that briefings and other engagements continue during this period, as we have no time to spare and that's especially true in the aftermath of the ascertainment delay."

By John Liang
December 23, 2020 at 1:17 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the defense industrial base, the Combat Rescue Helicopter program and more.

Now that a lame-duck session of lawmaking is coming to an end, the issue of the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic on the defense industrial base is being teed up for consideration by the Biden administration in the coming year:

DOD and Congress likely to wrestle with pandemic costs in the new year

The Pentagon and Congress have yet to fully reckon with the costs the COVID-19 pandemic may have imposed on the U.S. defense industrial base, including the roughly $11 billion defense officials tell lawmakers is needed to rectify the situation.

Progress on the Air Force's Combat Rescue Helicopter program has been delayed:

Air Force Combat Rescue Helicopter program eyes DT, RAA delays

The Air Force's new search-and-rescue helicopter program is running about two months behind schedule to achieve key milestones as a result of reduced testing site availability and production-related issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic, service spokesman Brian Brackens told Inside Defense.

Raytheon's protest of a satellite contract award has been dismissed:

GAO dismisses latest Raytheon protest as SDA reevaluates tracking layer bids

The Government Accountability Office this week dismissed Raytheon's most recent protest of a Space Development Agency contract for wide-field-of-view satellites.

Document: GAO CG decision on Raytheon's SDA protest

The Government Accountability Office has a new report on cybersecurity:

Audit of Pentagon software programs finds uneven approach to agile development, cybersecurity

A recent audit of Pentagon software programs found Defense Department organizations took a mixed bag of approaches to agile development and cybersecurity testing, often leading to schedule challenges, but the Pentagon says a new software "acquisition pathway" should yield better results in the future.

Document: GAO report on IT, cybersecurity

Last but certainly not least, continuing coverage of the FY-21 omnibus spending bill's defense portion:

Appropriators increase Army aviation funding

Congress is increasing funding for the Army's CH-47F Chinook Block II program in fiscal year 2021, including reinstating $29 million in advance procurement funding for the program for the second year in a row.

MDA's FY-21 budget gets $1.3B boost, DOD scolded for malleable plans

House and Senate lawmakers have proposed adding $1.3 billion to the Missile Defense Agency's fiscal year 2021 budget request -- a 14% hike that would allocate $10.4 billion for guided-missile interceptors, radars, space-based sensors and more -- while also taking the agency to task for inconsistent budgeting across its modernization portfolio.

By Marjorie Censer
December 23, 2020 at 11:14 AM

Elbit Systems of America has agreed to acquire Sparton from an affiliate of private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management for $380 million.

Elbit said in its announcement the deal is "conditioned on various closing conditions, including receipt of U.S. regulatory approvals, the pursuit of which could encompass a number of months."

The De Leon Springs, FL-based Sparton develops and produces electronic systems for undersea warfare for the Navy and allied military forces.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
December 22, 2020 at 3:47 PM

An open architecture model the Army is developing for the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle could eventually be used for other ground vehicles, according to slides the Army posted Dec. 22.

"The output of this working group will be incorporated [into] the OMFV program, and proliferated across the Ground Combat and Tactical Vehicle portfolios," the slides state.

The slides were included with an initial posting for companies interested in joining the working group, which aims to create a modular, open and scalable architecture for the OMFV, the Army's replacement for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

Developing the open architecture should eliminate the presence of redundant systems and non-standard connectors within vehicles, according to the slides. An open architecture could also make it easier for the Army to manage future logistics and supply chain costs, as more companies could bid for contracts.

Architecture development is set to being in January, according to a project calendar included in the slides. The process will last through the end of January 2022, when the request for proposals for the full design and prototype phases of the OMFV program will be released.

Each subsystem of the architecture, including robotics, C5ISR and vehicle electronics, will be designed in a sprint process, according to the slides. The government will create a draft in the first four weeks of each sprint, and industry will then have an opportunity to comment and work with the government on changes.

At this stage, the open architecture will be developed separately from the rest of the OMFV program. The Army released a request for proposals on Dec. 18 for Phase 2 of the program, the concept design phase.

Companies that bid for Phase 2 will be assessed on how well they provide for the implementation of the open and modular architecture, and the architecture's inclusion will be mandatory for Phases 3 and 4, the final design and prototyping phases, the Army announced at an industry day earlier this month.

By John Liang
December 22, 2020 at 2:00 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a report on the Pentagon's overhead persistent infrared architecture, the omnibus spending bill and more.

Inside Defense obtained a report that reviews the Pentagon's overhead persistent infrared architecture:

OPIR architecture report designates MDA as lead for HBTSS, reveals new interagency AQ team

A new report on the Defense Department's overhead persistent infrared architecture offers insight into the Pentagon's plans for future space-based missile tracking and warning capabilities -- a response to lawmakers' calls for a clear strategy that addresses concerns about duplication and oversight across the enterprise.

We also have coverage of the massive omnibus spending bill approved by House and Senate lawmakers last night:

Congress agrees to massive end-of-year spending bill

Congress has agreed to a $2.3 trillion omnibus package for fiscal year 2021 that includes $900 billion in pandemic relief funds.

Congress remains concerned about IVAS, reduces funding

As the Army this fiscal year plans to deliver the first generation of its new heads-up display, Congress remains skeptical about the service's fielding schedule and acquisition strategy and has reduced funding for the system.

Appropriators nearly double FMTV funding, slash AMPV

The Army will receive nearly double the funding it requested in fiscal year 2021 for the Family of Medium Technical Vehicles under an omnibus appropriations bill Congress passed on the evening of Dec. 21.

Lawmakers direct DOD-wide integrated air and missile defense assessment

Lawmakers have charged the Pentagon's top officer with overseeing a comprehensive new assessment of U.S. air and missile defense capabilities of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force and Missile Defense Agency against advanced threats such as hypersonic glide bodies and long-range, ultra-fast cruise missiles and to develop a plan to address these threats.

L3Harris Technologies has nabbed a multimillion-dollar Navy jammer contract:

Navy awards L3Harris $496 million Next Generation Jammer Low Band contract

The Navy announced Friday it had awarded L3Harris Technologies a $496 million contract for engineering and manufacturing development for the Next Generation Jammer Low Band program.

Last but not least, some unmanned systems news:

Army asking industry for MQ-1C Gray Eagle payloads for joint operations

The Army is asking industry for payloads for its MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft system for joint operations against adversaries.

By Sara Sirota
December 22, 2020 at 12:46 PM

The Air Force has partnered with Volansi, a logistics company providing vertical-takeoff-and-landing drones, to support the Skyborg autonomous aircraft program, the Defense Department announced Monday.

Volansi is one of 14 vendors to win an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with the Skyborg program, making it eligible to compete for task orders worth up to $400 million through 2026. The Air Force so far has awarded Boeing, General Atomics and Kratos between $14 million and $38 million to supply drone prototypes for flight experiments starting next year.

Skyborg aims to deliver a low-cost drone that uses artificial intelligence to conduct joint missions with manned aircraft. The program reflects the Air Force's broader efforts to accelerate human-machine teaming.

By Tony Bertuca
December 22, 2020 at 9:43 AM

President Trump has until Dec. 28 to sign a massive omnibus spending bill into law that includes $696 billion for the Pentagon and $900 billion for COVID-19 relief.

The House and Senate passed the $2.3 trillion package last night, averting a government shutdown by the midnight deadline. The lawmakers also passed a weeklong continuing resolution to give Trump time to sign the omnibus appropriations package.

Trump is expected to sign the bill, though he has vowed to veto separate legislation -- the defense authorization bill Congress sent him last week. Trump has until the end of Dec. 23 to veto that bill.

Congress, however, is planning to override the president and the House has scheduled a vote for Dec. 28 with the Senate to follow Dec. 29.

By Courtney Albon
December 21, 2020 at 4:54 PM

The final version of the fiscal year 2021 defense appropriations bill includes a $140 million cut to the Air Force's Next-Generation Air Dominance program -- a sign Congress may not yet be sold on the service's Digital Century Series pitch.

The funding reduction, once approved by both chambers, would lower the service's FY-21 NGAD budget request from about $1.04 billion to about $900 million. House appropriators in July proposed a $507 million cut and Senate appropriators countered last month with a plan to cut $70 million.

Although the $140 million reduction is much less than what the House proposed, it still deals a blow to a development program service acquisition executive Will Roper sees as a model for buying fighter aircraft in the future -- and it comes just months after the service finally completed an acquisition strategy and announced it had flown a full-scale demonstrator.

Through NGAD, the Air Force aims to rapidly develop and field new fighter aircraft with shorter service lives and, presumably, much lower sustainment costs than the current fleet. The shorter cycle would allow the service refresh technology more quickly, Roper argues, and be more agile in response to evolving threats.

Despite its recent successes, Roper told Air Force Magazine in a recent interview that because of the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he hasn't been able to get as much time with lawmakers as he'd like to discuss in detail the recent NGAD developments, most of which are classified. As a result, he's worried the program could "become an unintended casualty of COVID-19."

"To really talk about anything that makes us excited about the program, we have to get in the" Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, he told the magazine.

The Air Force has not publicly discussed its NGAD acquisition strategy in detail, but Roper confirmed to reporters in September it has been approved and that it validates the Digital Century Series model is more affordable than investing in large fleets with high modernization and sustainment costs.

By Tony Bertuca
December 21, 2020 at 4:47 PM

The House is preparing to vote Dec. 28 to override President Trump should he make good on multiple threats and veto the fiscal year 2021 defense authorization bill.

The date for the possible override vote was released today by the House Rules Committee.

Trump, meanwhile, has until Dec. 23 to veto the 4,500-page defense policy bill, which he has vowed to do because it includes a provision to remove the names of Confederate leaders from U.S. military bases and does not repeal a law used as a liability shield for social media companies.

Though the bill, which has been signed into law for 59 consecutive years, has already passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, some Republicans could change their votes to align with Trump.

For example, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), voted for the bill, but he has said he would not vote to override the lame-duck president's veto. It remains unclear how many lawmakers would join him.

By Sara Sirota
December 21, 2020 at 4:44 PM

Lawmakers delivered a major blow to Air Force leadership today by stripping nearly half the funding the service requested to develop the Advanced Battle Management System in their fiscal year 2021 defense spending bill.

Congress is proposing just $159 million of the $302 million budget the Air Force sought for the high-speed network. The program is a top priority for digital modernization as the military looks to conduct joint all-domain operations.

The funding cut is even larger than what House and Senate appropriators recommended in earlier versions of the bill -- a sign Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown and acquisition executive Will Roper did not do enough to court lawmakers who've long been skeptical of the program's acquisition strategy and spending levels.

According to the final bill's report, Congress removed $50 million for unjustified growth, $23 million due to forward financing of the on-ramp demonstrations and $15 million because of poor justification materials.

Lawmakers also slashed funding due to forward financing within seven categories of product development: $2 million from digital architecture, $11 million from sensor integration, $6 million from data, $18 million from secure processing, $11 million from connectivity, $5 million from applications and $3 million from effects integration.

The $159 million budget is still up from the $144 million Congress appropriated in FY-20 between ABMS and the Multi Domain Command and Control program ABMS absorbed this year. The Air Force was looking to significantly scale up spending in FY-21, though, followed by hikes to $591 million in FY-22, $1.1 billion in FY-24 and $832 million in FY-25.

Continued advocacy for the program moving forward may depend on whomever the Biden administration selects to replace Roper, the most vocal champion of ABMS within the Air Force.

The defense spending bill is part of a $2.3 billion omnibus package. It must pass the House and Senate and receive the president's signature by midnight tonight to prevent a government shutdown.

By Jaspreet Gill
December 21, 2020 at 3:05 PM

The Army is seeking white papers for a C4ISR/EW Modular Open Suite of Standards, or CMOSS, "card" with assured positioning, navigation and timing functionality, according to a General Services Administration notice.

The service is developing CMOSS, a common platform that will converge mission command, fires capabilities and movement and maneuver, with the help of the Assured PNT cross-functional team’s new Open Innovation Lab.

The Dec. 15 GSA notice states the Open Innovation Lab "will ideally verify compliance to modular open systems architectures (i.e. CMOSS), the PNT reference architecture and other open standards."

The service in September prototyped a CMOSS chassis that acted like a receptacle that would swap relevant cards in and out of a system, instead of the entire system itself. During a different demonstration this year, the service was able to integrate a CMOSS chassis onto a Stryker platform with a PNT card during a test at White Sands Missile Range, NM.

"This standard will be very modular and allow us to replace at the card level rather than at the box level capabilities," Col. Nickolas Kioutas, project manager for PNT, told reporters in September. "And that's very important to us because one of the cruxes we have . . . in getting capability into the force is integrating into the platform."

The notice states the CMOSS card must utilize military code, have assured PNT functionality, including GPS capabilities, and "all systems and components shall implement services to receive/consume external PNT data from authorized source such as PNT Mounted system."

They should also comply with the following Vehicular Integration for C4ISR/EW Interoperability (VICTORY) standards: position service whenever position data is required; time synchronization service with precision time protocol or network time protocol; orientation service; and director of travel service.

Industry is asked to respond by Jan. 7, 2021.

By John Liang
December 21, 2020 at 2:01 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on U.S. Cyber Command, Lockheed Martin's multibillion-dollar acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne and more.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) is "profoundly concerned" about reports the Defense Department is preparing to end the dual-hat relationship between U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency:

Lawmakers push back on Pentagon plan to split CYBERCOM/NSA

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are pushing back on a plan from the Pentagon to cleave the shared leadership between U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency amid the waning days of the Trump administration and a massive federal cybersecurity breach.

Document: Smith letter on NSA, CYBERCOM

Lockheed Martin over the weekend announced a multibillion-dollar acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne:

Lockheed Martin to acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne in $4.4 billion deal

Lockheed Martin said today it has agreed to buy Aerojet Rocketdyne for $56 per share in cash in a deal worth a total $4.4 billion.

Lockheed's CEO held a conference call on the acquisition with Wall Street analysts this morning:

Lockheed Martin says it expects government customers to see benefits of Aerojet Rocketdyne purchase

Lockheed Martin's chief executive said today the company has not yet received "direct feedback" from government customers about its proposed purchase of Aerojet Rocketdyne, but is hopeful "we'll have a mutual understanding of the benefits."

The Skyborg program intends to add artificial intelligence to drones so they can perform joint missions with manned aircraft:

Artificial intelligence pilot could soon fly with Skyborg drone

The Air Force is ready to integrate artificial intelligence with "attritable" drones and may soon put ARTUµ -- an algorithm that controlled a U-2 Dragon Lady's sensor and navigation systems in flight earlier this week -- inside a Skyborg aircraft, according to service acquisition executive Will Roper.

A federal court ruling issued last week allows Leidos to move forward with the $7.7 billion contract it won in February to provide services for the Next Generation Enterprise Network program:

Court rules in favor of Leidos in NGEN contract case

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has denied Perspecta's lawsuit over the Navy's award of the multibillion-dollar Next Generation Enterprise Network services contract to Leidos.

The request for proposals for a phase of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle development program has been released:

Army releases RFP for concept design phase of OMFV competition

The Army today released a request for proposals for the concept design phase of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program after restarting the competition earlier this year, according to service officials.

Document: Army's final RFP for OMFV design

By Ethan Sterenfeld
December 21, 2020 at 12:18 PM

General Dynamics Land Systems has won a $4.6 billion contract to build Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 tanks through 2028, the Army announced Dec. 18.

The fixed-price-incentive contract was awarded after General Dynamics was the only bidder to produce the newest generation of the Army's main battle tank, according to the contract announcement.

General Dynamics Land Systems -- known as Chrysler Defense before being bought in 1982 -- has produced the Abrams since the tank entered production in the late 1970s.

General Dynamics delivered the first production models of the SEPv3, the newest version of the Army's main battle tank, in 2017.

The Army made a conditional materiel release decision in February on the SEPv3 tanks that have been delivered, Ashley John, an Army spokeswoman, wrote in a statement to Inside Defense earlier this month. The tanks are scheduled for full materiel release in Oct. 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed testing and fielding for the Abrams SEPv3, according to John. The program did not have to make any changes beyond providing personal protective equipment.

Separately, Honeywell International won a $1.1 billion contract modification to perform work on the Automotive Gas Turbine 1500 engines that power the Abrams. The estimated completion date is Sep. 30, 2025, according to the Army's Dec. 17 contract announcement.

Work locations and the exact amounts of funding for both contracts will be determined with each order, according to the Army.