The Insider

By Ashley Tressel
January 2, 2019 at 2:44 PM

The Army plans to award Lockheed Martin two contracts for upgraded rocket launchers for artillery units.

One is a 12-month award, with an option for seven more years, to deliver up to 385 Multiple Launch Rocket System M270A2 launchers. The service has a requirement to upgrade “excess Launcher Loader Module M269AO/A 1 structures and M993AO/A 1 hulls,” according to a recent Federal Business Opportunities notice.

“This contract action will extend the operational life of the MLRS Launcher to 2050 by addressing obsolescence issues, upgrading and installing the LLM, along with installing the Improved Armored Cab (IAC) and a Common Fire Control System (CFCS),” the notice states.

A second award will have a 12-month minimum and four option years to deliver up to 343 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers, fulfilling fiscal year 2019 to 2023 requirements, according to a separate notice.

Both notices point out the Army does not possess “sufficient technical data rights” that would allow it to award the contracts to another vendor.

By Justin Doubleday
January 2, 2019 at 2:25 PM

Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist will perform the duties of the deputy defense secretary, acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan announced today.

“As Department of Defense Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller for the past 19 months, David Norquist has had insight into virtually every tenet of this department,” Shanahan said in a statement. “I have the greatest confidence in his abilities to lead a phenomenally talented team while performing the duties as Deputy Secretary of Defense.”

Norquist is a career financial manager. Prior to being sworn in as Pentagon comptroller in June 2017, he was a partner with accounting firm Kearney and Company. He has also worked in financial leadership positions throughout government. From 2006 to 2008, Norquist was the Department of Homeland Security's first Senate-confirmed Chief Financial Officer.

He has spent most of his tenure as DOD comptroller focusing on the department's first-ever audit. DOD failed to receive a “clean” opinion, though Norquist said the process has uncovered issues that will help improve military readiness and cybersecurity.

He begins performing the deputy defense secretary job as the Pentagon puts the final touches on the fiscal year 2020 budget request, which is expected to be released in early February. In his statement today, Shanahan said the department remains in “pre-decisional budget coordination.”

During his time as deputy, Shanahan had been overseeing several marquee DOD initiatives, including the development of a Space Force legislative proposal, as well as a new task force to protect critical technology and data from cyber threats.

As acting defense secretary, Shanahan said he “continues to focus on implementation of the National Defense Strategy,” without further elaboration.

A spokesman for Shanahan also said the acting defense secretary has recused himself from all matters related to Boeing. He had worked at the defense and aerospace firm for 31 years prior to entering government service.

“Under his Ethics Agreement, Mr. Shanahan has recused himself for the duration of his service in the Department of Defense from participating in matters in which the Boeing Company is a party,” the spokesman said.

By Courtney Albon
January 2, 2019 at 1:59 PM

(Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect additional information.)

Boeing and the Air Force have yet to finalize the delivery of the first KC-46 tanker, which was most recently slated to happen by the end of 2018.

The move has been stalled by the departure of former Defense Secretary James Mattis and the transition of acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan into the role. Shanahan, a former top executive at Boeing, has recused himself from all matters involving the company.

Pentagon leaders will meet with Boeing this week to finalize the delivery plan, a source told Inside Defense.

Boeing spokesman Charles Ramey said the program "remains a top priority and we look forward to delivering tanker aircraft in partnership with the Air Force."

Boeing was supposed to deliver the first batch of 18 aircraft last August, but now projects it will do so by April 2019. Over the summer, the program projected the first aircraft would be ready to hand over to the Air Force in October, but that time line has been pushed on more than one occasion as the company awaits final Air Force acceptance.

The Air Force declined to comment on the current delivery schedule.

By Marjorie Censer
January 2, 2019 at 11:13 AM

Maxar Technologies said today it has completed the U.S. domestication process, meaning the Canadian parent company has been incorporated in Delaware.

"The common shares of the new parent company will be listed on both the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) under the same trading symbol, 'MAXR,'" a statement reads.

Maxar said it has also transitioned to U.S. accounting standards, which "will make its financial results more transparent to a wider audience of investors and provide increased comparability with U.S. aerospace and defense peer companies."

By Rachel Cohen
December 31, 2018 at 10:44 AM

The Air Force Scientific Advisory Board will formally launch its fiscal year 2019 studies in a closed meeting on Jan. 23 in Irvine, CA, according to a Dec. 28 Federal Register notice.

Upcoming studies will cover multisource data fusion for target location and identification, 21st-century training and education, as well as modeling, simulation and analysis fidelity.

The board will also finalize an outbrief for the Air Force Research Laboratory's yearlong science and technology review.

By Justin Doubleday
December 31, 2018 at 10:31 AM

Outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged Defense Department personnel to "keep the faith in our country" in a farewell note released today.

"Our Department's leadership, civilian and military, remains in the best possible hands," Mattis wrote in the note to all DOD employees. "I am confident that each of you remains undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life."

Today is Mattis’ last day as defense secretary. His deputy, Patrick Shanahan, will take over as acting defense secretary tomorrow.

"Our department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult," Mattis wrote in today’s letter. "So keep the faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes.”

Mattis resigned Dec. 20, acknowledging he and President Trump aren’t aligned on foreign policy. He had planned on staying through the end of February, but after his resignation letter critiquing the president was widely publicized, Trump decided to install Shanahan as acting defense secretary at the start of the new year instead.

By Marjorie Censer
December 31, 2018 at 5:05 AM

You read it, we noticed. In 2018, one story soared to the top of the most-read list -- perhaps not surprisingly, given that it detailed the behind-the-scenes action that resulted in a far larger Pentagon budget.

Here, we list our most-read stories of the year.

5. Pentagon eyeing new list of weapon systems for rapid prototyping

The Pentagon is considering several weapon systems for new rapid prototyping authority granted by Congress, including the Air Force's hypersonic conventional strike capability, F-22 aircraft modernization and two key Navy missile programs, Inside Defense has learned.

4. Lockheed to win potential $780M development, production contract for hypersonic ARRW program

Lockheed Martin is set to receive a potential $780 million contract for the Air Force's next hypersonic weapon project, the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon, according to a recently published service document.

3. Five companies, including two foreign firms, express interest in LTAMDS 'Sense-Off'

Five companies -- three U.S. contractors and two foreign firms -- responded to the Army's industry day invitation and the chance to compete in the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor program's "Sense-Off" event, a contest to rival the LTAMDS program of record -- allowing new players the opportunity to nab production of the expected multibillion-dollar Patriot radar replacement.

2. Lockheed Martin says winning prices in three major programs would have generated $5 billion loss

Had Lockheed Martin matched the winning prices in three major programs it lost in recent months, it would have incurred losses of more than $5 billion, the contractor's chief executive said today.

1. How GOP defense hawks delivered a massive military budget

When President Trump was elected in late 2016, defense advocates readied for increased spending, confident his arrival would mean far larger budgets. But for nearly the past 18 months, that prediction has faced doubts and political gridlock, as Congress continued to rely on stopgap spending measures.

By John Liang
December 26, 2018 at 5:15 AM

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

1. The Navy's new maritime strategy, seeking to align with the National Defense Strategy, details how the service can prepare for "great power competition" with the Russian and Chinese navies and lays out time lines for future major acquisitions to support the strategy.

Full story: New maritime strategy lays out future major acquisition time lines

2. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will step down from his position early next year, telling President Trump in a resignation letter sent last week that he should have a Pentagon chief whose views "are better aligned" with his.

Full story: Mattis to step down, acknowledges he and Trump aren't aligned on key issues

3. The Navy is on track to achieve 341 mission-capable F/A-18 fighter jets by October 2019, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer recently confirmed.

Full story: Spencer: Navy on track for 341 mission-capable Super Hornets by October 2019

4. The Navy's top officer has set 2025 as the the official target for fielding a sea-based, offensive hypersonic strike conventional weapon, giving the service about six years to adopt technologies -- including the hypersonic glide body developed as part of the Conventional Prompt Strike program -- for use in the U.S. military's submarine fleet.

Full story: Navy sets 2025 target for deploying conventional hypersonic strike weapon

By John Liang
December 26, 2018 at 5:05 AM

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

1. The Army has chosen BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems to build prototypes for the Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, dropping Science Applications International Corp. from consideration.

Full story: BAE, General Dynamics move forward in MPF competition

2. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will step down from his position early next year, telling President Trump in a resignation letter sent last week that he should have a Pentagon chief whose views "are better aligned" with his.

Full story: Mattis to step down, acknowledges he and Trump aren't aligned on key issues

3. The Army Requirements Oversight Council has decided to move forward with fielding Iron Fist, a non-developmental active protection system, on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, according to the service.

Full story: Iron Fist APS approved for initial production

4. Vendors competing in the Army's Improved Turbine Engine Program expect the service to downselect to one design in early 2019.

Full story: ITEP downselect expected in early 2019

By John Liang
December 23, 2018 at 5:43 PM

The Air Force’s GPS III satellite launched this morning has begun “talking” with engineers and operators from ground control, according to a statement from spacecraft builder Lockheed Martin.

“GPS III Space Vehicle 01 (GPS III SV01) is now receiving and responding to commands from Lockheed Martin's Launch and Checkout Center at the company's Denver facility,” the statement reads. Air Force and company engineers declared satellite control signal acquisition and rocket booster separation about 119 minutes after GPS III SV01's launch. 

The satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 8:51 a.m. EST after three cancellations due to either weather or bad sensor readings on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

The successful deployment represents two significant firsts for the Air Force and the national security space launch community: the launch of the first Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellite and the first time SpaceX and its Falcon 9 rocket have flown an NSS mission.

Air Force officials have said previously this weekend’s launch could set the stage for future Air Force reusable launch missions.

By Rachel Cohen
December 23, 2018 at 1:09 PM

Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan will take over as acting defense secretary on Jan. 1, President Trump said in a tweet Sunday. He will assume the role two months earlier than Secretary Jim Mattis' planned departure on Feb. 28.

"I am pleased to announce that our very talented deputy secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan, will assume the title of acting secretary of defense starting January 1, 2019," Trump tweeted. "Patrick has a long list of accomplishments while serving as deputy, [and] previously Boeing. He will be great!"

Mattis resigned Dec. 20 in a letter that rebuked Trump's approach to foreign policy and American allies, saying the president should have a Pentagon chief with whom his views "are better aligned." As Mattis’s No. 2, Shanahan is an integral part of daily Pentagon operations, including crafting budget requests and overseeing acquisition programs.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning declined to comment on the specifics of Shanahan's appointment to acting secretary and did not say who will replace him as deputy secretary.

“The secretary of defense serves at the pleasure of the president," Manning told Inside Defense in an email today. "The department remains focused on national security."

He referred further questions to the White House.

By Rachel Cohen
December 21, 2018 at 3:00 PM

The military on Wednesday suspended an Air Force effort to find an off-the-shelf laser prototype for base and aircraft defense, according to an Army notice.

"Effective immediately, this effort has been suspended," according to a Dec. 19 Army notice. "Additional information will be provided during the second quarter of [fiscal year 2019]."

The Army's Training and Readiness Accelerator (TReX) consortium, which handles the High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype development, noted on its website the program's Dec. 11 request for solutions will be amended.

Working with TReX allows the Air Force to move from solicitation to contract within three months. The service could issue up to two other transaction agreements and wants to reach system-level ground tests within one year after award.

Tim Greeff, chief executive officer of the National Security Technology Accelerator that manages TReX, did not respond to a request for comment Dec. 20.

By John Liang
December 21, 2018 at 2:47 PM

The final INSIDER Daily Digest of 2018 leads off with the cyber ramifications of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' stunning decision to step down, followed by a story on the Air Force's ISR Flight Plan plus the government's "complicated" implementation of a ban on buying technology from certain Chinese companies.

We start off with a look at the cyber ramifications of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' stunning announcement of his resignation:

Mattis' resignation letter cites progress on cyber defenses, but departure prompts questions about next steps

Defense Secretary James Mattis' surprise resignation letter references progress on a national defense strategy that has propelled Pentagon efforts on securing cyber operations viewed as crucial to enhanced lethality, along with the letter's pointed reference to differences with President Trump on "treating allies."

Document: Mattis' resignation letter

The Air Force will make spending decisions consistent with its 10-year flight plan, but how the force planning will affect ISR portions of the fiscal year 2020 budget request remain up in the air:

ISR Flight Plan group working with force structure team on future platform mix

The team in charge of the Air Force's new Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Flight Plan is working with the Air Staff's strategic plans and programs branch to see how the ISR strategy released earlier this year could affect the future force structure, a service spokesman recently confirmed to Inside Defense.

Implementing a federal ban on buying from certain Chinese companies isn't as simple as one might think:

Federal agencies move to implement 'complicated' ban on Huawei, ZTE

An interagency working group is seeking a "rational approach" to implement what officials concede is a "complicated," wide-reaching federal ban on procuring or otherwise using technology made by Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese firms, according to officials speaking at a MITRE Corp. event this week.

Happy Holidays!

The INSIDER Daily Digest would like to wish our readers a safe and joyous Holiday Season and a prosperous New Year. The next issue will be published Jan. 2, 2019.

By Maximilian Kwiatkowski
December 21, 2018 at 12:41 PM

The Army is seeking information from industry to determine the possibility of expanding the type of exercises available on a training system being developed by the Synthetic Training Environment cross functional team.

With this move, after the Reconfigurable Collective trainer reaches initial operational capability, it may be upgraded to the Reconfigurable Virtual Trainer, according to the Army's request for information posted Dec. 12.

Previously, the service has kept two types of trainers separate from each other; system trainers, which focus on things like gunnery or specific vehicles, and collective trainers, which simulate collaborative tasks.

These current trainers can't be combined into one that could comprehensively train personnel, according to the notice.

Instead, the new RVT would combine those training devices into one device that is portable and uses as little hardware as possible, potentially cutting costs.

Some of the technology the service is considering are augmented or virtual reality goggles and haptic vests or gloves, which simulate touch and feel of objects seen in virtual reality to the wearer, the notice states.

By John Liang
December 21, 2018 at 11:56 AM

In its semiannual Afghanistan security and stability report released Tuesday, the Trump administration said that while challenges remain, "the combination of military escalation and diplomatic initiative have made a favorable political settlement more likely than at any time in recent memory."

The report comes amidst media reports that President Trump has ordered the Defense Department to prepare to draw down U.S. troop levels in the country from about 14,000 to 7,000.

While "[t]he introduction of additional advisors and enablers in 2018 stabilized the situation in Afghanistan, slowing the momentum of a Taliban march that had capitalized on U.S. drawdowns between 2011 and 2016 . . . [t]he key to success remains sustained military pressure against the Taliban," the report states.

"The current military situation inside of Afghanistan remains at an impasse," the document continues. "The introduction of additional advisors and enablers in 2018 stabilized the situation, slowing the momentum of a Taliban march that had capitalized on U.S. drawdowns between 2011 and 2016. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) remain in control of most of Afghanistan’s population centers and all of the provincial capitals, while the Taliban control large portions of Afghanistan’s rural areas, and continue to attack poorly defended government checkpoints and rural districts."

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), who traveled to Afghanistan in October when he joined House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to observe the situation on the ground firsthand, said in a statement issued today he is "deeply disturbed by reports that the administration is planning to cut the number of American troops in Afghanistan by half.

"Among my concerns are that such a move would: complicate the remaining troops' ability to protect themselves; cause coalition partners to reduce their presence as well; set back progress in helping the Afghan security forces be able to provide for their country's security; relieve pressure on the Taliban at a critical juncture in peace negotiations; and allow ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan to rebuild and eventually launch terrorist attacks against Americans," Thornberry said.

"Considerable progress has been made in the last two years against terrorist organizations in a variety of places around the world," he added. "Reducing the American presence in Afghanistan and removing our presence in Syria will reverse that progress, encourage our adversaries, and make America less safe."