The Insider

By Marjorie Censer
June 23, 2020 at 2:25 PM

Private-equity firm AE Industrial Partners said this week it has acquired NuWave Solutions, which specializes in data management, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and cloud solutions for government agencies.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and AEI said NuWave will be a standalone platform.

The private-equity firm has named Reggie Brothers chief executive of NuWave and Michael Buscher chief growth officer. Mark Keyser, a founder of NuWave, will remain with the company as an adviser to the board of directors.

Brothers was chief technology officer at Peraton. He previously served as undersecretary of science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security and as deputy assistant secretary of defense for research at the Pentagon.

Buscher was vice president of intelligence and special operations at Peraton. He also founded Vanguard Defense Industries.

"As Chief Growth Officer, Mr. Buscher will help expand NuWave's reach to the defense and intelligence communities," AEI said.

By Jason Sherman
June 23, 2020 at 2:14 PM

Mike Griffin, the Pentagon's top technology officer, and his deputy Lisa Porter, will step down next month, according to a Defense Department official.

The pair will vacate the top two posts in the office of the under secretary of defense for research and engineering July 10, the official said.

This afternoon, Griffin and Porter sent their staff an email, with the subject "Farewell," to their colleagues:

R&E Team,

As has been our practice, this is from Mike's email, but equally from both of us. We want to inform you that we have submitted our resignations from our present positions, effective 10 July. A private-sector opportunity has presented itself to us, offering an opportunity we have decided to pursue together. It has been a pleasure leading this great team over the past few years. We greatly appreciate your hard work, diligence, integrity, and devotion to technical excellence and technical truth in furtherance of the R&E mission. We wish you all the very best.

Sincerely,

Lisa and Mike

In a separate statement issued June 23, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said: "During their tenures, Dr. Griffin and Dr. Porter advanced critical work on the department's modernization priorities. They leave an office with a legacy of excellence in the research and development of technology that ensures American military advantage on land, at sea, in the air and in space. Mike and Lisa have my sincere thanks for their dedicated service to the department and the nation, and I wish them the very best as they enter this new chapter of their lives."

By Marjorie Censer
June 23, 2020 at 1:53 PM

SOS International's investment in AppTek -- unveiled last week – is already resulting in collaboration, according to SOSi's chief executive.

In an interview with Inside Defense this week, Julian Setian said there are "immediate applications" of AppTek's technology within SOSi's work.

SOSi last week announced the deal, which allows for it to become the exclusive reseller of AppTek products to federal, state and local government.

Two days after the announcement, Setian said, engineers from both companies spent four hours discussing sales channels.

"We have a very short orientation period," he said. "We already kind of know each other's capabilities."

Setian acknowledged that there isn't necessarily a standing requirement for the technology, but said SOSi will be working with its government customers to help them understand the benefits.

"What we're hoping to do is drive the market by putting next-generation technologies in front of our customers," he said.

"It's really hard to get the government to adopt emerging technologies from the outside," he added. "Government agencies have to come to their own conclusions and start to build requirements into their" requests for proposals.

Mudar Yaghi, AppTek's CEO, told Inside Defense SOSi has existing relationships with government agencies and can act as something of a technology consultant to them.

Setian said the investment is a natural fit, given SOSi's roots in providing foreign language services. This technology, he said, will take that work "to the next level."

By Mallory Shelbourne
June 22, 2020 at 4:32 PM

A House panel is calling on the Navy to produce a requirements analysis of possible munitions it could employ on Marine Corps attack helicopters.

The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee's mark of the fiscal year 2021 defense policy bill includes a provision calling for the Navy secretary to brief the full committee about munitions for the Marine Corps' AH-1Z Viper and AH-1W Super Cobra no later than Jan. 15, 2021.

As part of the briefing to lawmakers, the Navy's top civilian should discuss "vertical lift munitions capabilities gaps and potential commercial-off-the-shelf solutions that could serve as an interim solution for meeting future Department of the Navy vertical lift demands," according to the subcommittee's mark.

"The briefing should include an analysis of requirements and costs to test any relevant domestic or allied commercial-off-the shelf munitions from an AH-1W SuperCobra or AH-1Z Viper Marine Corps attack helicopter," the draft of the mark continues.

The House Armed Services Committee is conducting its subcommittee mark-ups of the FY-21 policy bill this week. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its defense policy legislation earlier this month but has yet to release the text of the bill.

By Jaspreet Gill
June 22, 2020 at 2:20 PM

The Army this month shifted $8.9 million from aircraft sale proceeds to the UH-60 Black Hawk M model multiyear procurement account, according to a Pentagon document.

The reprogramming action, which was just recently made public, was signed in April by acting Pentagon Comptroller Elaine McCusker, whose nomination to permanently fill that role was withdrawn in March.

The funds will be used "to procure H-60M airframes and associated equipment," the memo says. The Army's fiscal year 2020 UH-60 acquisition objective is 2,135, including 1,375 M-model aircraft.

"Funds are available from the sale of ten (10) H-60 helicopters and parts via the [Black Hawk] Exchange and Sales Team (BEST) Program, with the transactions occurring between October 2019 and December 2019, totaling $8,998,679," the reprogramming action states.

By John Liang
June 22, 2020 at 2:14 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has extensive coverage of the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee marks of the fiscal year 2021 defense authorization bill.

Before we get to the subcommittee marks, though, here's some news from a briefing held this morning by Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the defense industrial base:

Lord sees 'enormous' recovery in industrial base, but says need for supplemental funding remains

Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord said today the defense industrial base is making an "enormous recovery" after a three-month slowdown caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, but she stressed the continued need for supplemental funding in the "lower double-digit" billions to reimburse contractors for pandemic-related disruptions.

As for the subcommittee marks, here's our coverage so far:

House panel declines to back MDA's layered homeland defense proposal, requires AOA

A key House panel has declined to endorse the Pentagon's plans for a a layered homeland ballistic missile defense architecture based on the newest Aegis ballistic missile interceptor and a new variant of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor and instead directed a comprehensive analysis of alternatives for the mission to be conducted.

House panel skeptical of Navy F/A-18 sundown, seeks reports from Joint Staff, DOD IG

A House panel is seeking more information from the Pentagon about the Navy's F/A-18 fleet in response to the service's proposal to sundown the production line in fiscal year 2022, but has stopped short of forcing the Defense Department to continue the program.

House panel moves to evaluate next ICBM system's schedule, workforce challenges

House authorizers are pushing to review how the military is planning for possible delays fielding the next intercontinental ballistic missile system and any challenges the Air Force faces manning the acquisition program.

House lawmakers propose clarified vision, funding plan for Space Development Agency

The House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee is proposing legislation it hopes will focus the Space Development Agency's mission on top Defense Department priorities -- like the planned transport and missile warning layers -- and encourage greater use of commercial services.

House authorizers advance legislation to elevate Joint AI Center, create new 'board of directors'

House authorizers are proposing legislation that would have the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center report to the deputy secretary of defense, as well as create a powerful board of directors to guide the Pentagon's AI strategy and investments.

House panel readies new missile defense oversight measures, hypersonic strike directives and more

A House panel is proposing legislation that would direct the Navy to arm DDG-1000 destroyers with an intermediate-range hypersonic weapon, require a sweeping analysis of alternatives before the Missile Defense Agency commits to a new layered homeland defense architecture, require the president to participate in an annual nuclear command and control exercise, and provide an unclassified report on foreign nuclear weapon programs.

By Marjorie Censer
June 22, 2020 at 1:51 PM

MITRE said today it has created an advisory board for its Center for Technology & National Security and named five members.

The not-for-profit added five former military officials to the board of CTNS. They are retired Gen. John Campbell, the former Army vice chief of staff; Lisa Disbrow, the former Air Force under secretary; retired Adm. Bill Gortney, the former head of U.S. Northern Command; retired Vice Adm. Bob Murrett, the former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; and Bob Work, the former deputy defense secretary.

"The new advisory board members will help guide the center's efforts to provide our nation's military and intelligence leaders with data-driven research, analysis, and insights to help them navigate the rapidly evolving technology landscape," MITRE said.

MITRE established the center about a year ago.

By Tony Bertuca
June 22, 2020 at 5:00 AM

The House Armed Services Committee this week will begin the process of marking up its annual defense authorization bill.

Monday

The House Armed Services Committee begins subcommittee mark-ups of the fiscal year 2021 defense authorization bill. The process continues through Tuesday.

The Air Force Associations hosts an online discussion with the chief of Air Combat Command.

Tuesday

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts an online discussion on the role of unmanned and small combatants in maritime operations.

The Middle East Institute hosts an online event with U.S. Central Command’s director of strategy.

AeroVironment executives are scheduled to discuss quarterly earnings.

Thursday

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments rolls out a report on "great power competition."

By John Liang
June 19, 2020 at 2:18 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Army's Stryker combat vehicle, the nascent Joint Hypersonic Transition Office, foreign drone sales and more.

We start off with news about the Army's Stryker combat vehicle:

Two Stryker upgrades moving into testing phases

Two upgrade programs for the Stryker vehicle, the Anti-Tank Guided Missile Engineering Change Proposal and the Common Remotely Operated Weapons System-Javelin ECP, are moving from development to testing, according to the program office.

Army assures 'healthy competition' for Stryker MCWS after vendors drop out

The officials in charge of the Army's program to put a 30 mm cannon on the Stryker vehicle are saying the competition is still "healthy" despite at least two vendors out of six choosing to withdraw from the initial phase.

Mark Lewis, director of defense research and engineering for modernization, recently spoke to Inside Defense on the new Joint Hypersonic Transition Office:

DOD establishes Joint Hypersonic Transition Office to stand up new university consortium and more

The Defense Department has established a Joint Hypersonic Transition Office and charged the new shop with overseeing creation of a university-led consortium to expand cooperation between academia, industry and government as part of the U.S. military's goal to eventually scale production of a new class of high-speed, maneuvering weapons.

Proponents of increased drone sales have long complained the government's strict regulations on exports obstruct timely sales, excluding American companies from a global market dominated by Israel and China:

As Air Force looks to drone export reforms, focus is on speeding deliveries

Even though the Air Force has spent the last two years trying to reform its drone export enterprise, particularly working to accelerate transfers, industry insiders say they haven't seen the expected results.

The Army's new heads-up display will have better batteries:

Upcoming IVAS touchpoint to include new battery prototypes

Soldiers will use new silicon-anode conformal wearable battery prototypes in an upcoming test of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, the Army's new augmented reality heads-up display.

Navy acquisition chief Hondo Geurts told reporters today that while the problem originated with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System's power handling system, the service is still trying to determine the specific cause of the issue on the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford (CVN-78):

Geurts: Navy still working to diagnose problem that caused EMALS failure on Ford

The Navy is still assessing what caused the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System aboard its new aircraft carrier to go out earlier this month during an at-sea testing period.

Research on Navy pilots' physiological episodes will have implications for a whole bunch of aircraft:

Navy's deep dive on PEs will impact F-35, other military fleets

The Navy's team assessing physiological episodes in aviators has concluded its investigations into two aircraft fleets, but the admiral in charge says the team’s work will have implications for other military planes as well.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is developing a ground-launched hypersonic weapon for use by the Army, is now in discussions with the Marine Corps about a similar capability:

Marine Corps eyeing DARPA-developed hypersonic weapon

The Marine Corps is exploring adopting a hypersonic weapon, a move that would extend plans for fielding the new class of ultra-fast, maneuvering systems beyond the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Last but certainly not least, some cyber defense news from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

Solarium Commission staff want legislative action on national cyber director, CISA-based cyber planning cell

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission is advocating for getting up to 20 recommendations from the group's report included in this year's defense policy bill, according to commission Executive Director Mark Montgomery, who says the creation of a national cyber director and a Joint Cyber Planning Cell within the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency are among the top priorities.

By Justin Doubleday
June 19, 2020 at 1:56 PM

The Pentagon today announced Dave Spirk as its new chief data officer, a key position within the Defense Department as it looks to make rapid advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Spirk is a retired Marine who most recently served as chief data officer at U.S. Special Operations Command. He will take over for Michael Conlin, who was named the Pentagon's first ever CDO in July 2018.

Spirk will start in his new role on June 22, according to the Pentagon announcement.

Prior to his SOCOM job, Spirk was associate director of technology investment in the Air Force secretary's Concept Development and Management Office for Advanced Analytics and Technology Investment. He also served as a U.S. Marine Corps intelligence specialist in Afghanistan and at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as the chief of operations for the Cuba and Venezuela Mission Manager.

"Effective data management is the central component of the department's Digital Modernization Strategy," DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said as part of the announcement. "Dave brings extensive experience and a thorough understanding of how data empowers joint, all-domain operations. I look forward to working with Dave as we create a strong data culture across the department."

The Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act shifted the CDO position out from under the Pentagon's chief management officer to the office of the DOD CIO. The CIO is responsible for leading policy and standards across DOD's digital modernization strategy, which includes cloud computing, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and command, control, and communications as its pillars.

By Courtney Albon
June 19, 2020 at 1:51 PM

The Space and Missile Systems Center plans to award contracts to six small-launch providers under the Defense Production Act for rideshare missions launching government payloads -- an effort to boost a space industrial base that is struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Air Force announced its plans in a notice this week, noting that awards would go to the following companies: Aevum, Astra, X-BOW, Rocket Lab, Space Vector and VOX Space. Each award will have a two-year performance period and will cover two launches.

It's unclear when the launches will be awarded, but SMC Director Lt. Gen. John Thompson said this week he expects them to come "very shortly," noting that the contracts are critical to supporting small launch providers.

Defense Department acquisition chief Ellen Lord and Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper have both raised concerns about the impact of the pandemic on the space launch industry and Roper, who chairs the Space Acquisition Council, has been working with industry to determine what support companies need.

The council in April decided to survey the approximately 350 companies that make up the Space Enterprise Consortium to better understand the impact of COVID-19 and craft an informed response. The Air Force's Assistant Secretary for Space Acquisition and Integration Shawn Barnes said this week the council's survey revealed that about half of respondents have felt at least a moderate impact on their companies' cash flow and about half said they've adjusted their business strategy as a result.

Around one-third of respondents said they've seen an impact to supply chain materials, Barnes said during a Mitchell Institute event, while about one-third said they expect programs to run behind schedule.

Barnes didn't discuss how the service planned to respond in light of the survey, but Roper has said the Defense Department would likely use the information to better understand supply chain and market stresses and determine where to invest stimulus funds.

By Justin Doubleday
June 19, 2020 at 12:27 PM

Ligado Networks sent lawmakers a letter this week indicating some Defense Department officials supported the company's plan for deploying a terrestrial fifth-generation (5G) wireless network in the L-band and disagreed with the official Pentagon position that the network will cause "harmful interference" to GPS signals.

The June 18 letter, delivered to leaders of the House and Senate Commerce committees, comes as the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration asks the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider its decision to approve Ligado's network plan. The Pentagon has vociferously denounced the FCC's decision, led by DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy.

Ligado's letter includes a copy of an email from a "high-ranking official" in the office of the DOD CIO sent to Ligado executives shortly after the FCC in April announced its approval of the company's plan. The official's name is redacted.

"The unanimous, bipartisan vote by the FCC is keenly obvious proof to any who are truly informed or were honest assessors of the engineering and regulatory soundness of this final determination, albeit so very long in arriving," the official wrote.

The email contends that the military operates mostly on its own section of GPS spectrum that is well outside the band closest to Ligado's licensed spectrum.

In the June 18 letter, Ligado Executive Vice President Valerie Green writes it was "well known" inside the Pentagon in 2018 that the DOD CIO's office concluded the company's spectrum plan "presented no potential for harm to the U.S. Military's GPS devices."

The letter also includes 2018 emails between Air Force and Navy officials discussing Ligado's proposal. The emails show Air Force officials warning that the DOD CIO office and NTIA planned to support Ligado's network. Air Force officials argued against abandoning the "1 dB carrier-to-noise ratio" limit for measuring GPS interference, while a Navy official disagreed with carrying that metric forward.

NTIA and DOD are now arguing that the 1 dB metric should be upheld, while the FCC said it based its decision on more appropriate "performance-based" metrics.

"The evidence also shows that there was disagreement inside DOD about the adequacies of 1 dB as a metric and some DOD officials internally urged the DOD to abandon that view," Green writes.

A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the emails, but said, "the department remains opposed to the Ligado proposal."

The FCC's approval of Ligado's network has drawn the ire of lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, respectively, who back the arguments that it poses an unacceptable risk to both military and civilian GPS signals.

However, the House and Senate commerce committees have oversight of spectrum and the FCC, and the leaders of those panels have not definitively ruled for or against the FCC's decision.

Meanwhile, in June 8 letters responding to senators' questions, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai defended the commission's decision, but assured them the FCC will consider several petitions to reconsider the Ligado order.

"Let me assure you that we will give full consideration to the issues raised in compliance with the law and the Commission's rules," Pai wrote.

By Tony Bertuca
June 19, 2020 at 11:01 AM

The House Appropriations Committee plans to mark up the fiscal year 2021 defense spending bill on July 8, according to a letter Chairwoman Nita Lowey sent to lawmakers last night.

The defense subcommittee is slated to begin marking up its bill around 3 p.m., according to spokesman Evan Hollander.

The military construction and veterans affairs subcommittee is scheduled to mark up its bill July 6 at 8 p.m.

Lowey has not yet announced a full committee mark-up date for either bill.

By Tony Bertuca
June 18, 2020 at 5:37 PM

Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Katie Wheelbarger has resigned from the Defense Department, less than a week after the White House withdrew her nomination to be deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence.

President Trump pulled Wheelbarger's nomination last week, instead selecting retired Army Special Forces officer Bradley Hansell for the job.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement he received Wheelbarger's resignation yesterday, noting she brought a "wealth of experience and the utmost professionalism" to DOD.

"Her leadership in support of the National Defense Strategy is evident in the proud accomplishments of her team," he said. "She is someone I got to know well over the last three years and, with sincere appreciation for her many contributions and years of service, I wish Katie the very best in what I'm sure will be a very bright future."

Politico reported in March that Wheelbarger's nomination was in trouble due to a perceived lack of loyalty to the president.

Meanwhile, Wheelbarger is the second senior DOD official to resign this week. On Wednesday, acting Pentagon Comptroller Elaine McCusker, who also had her nomination withdrawn by the president, announced she was leaving DOD.

By Marjorie Censer
June 18, 2020 at 3:46 PM

L3Harris Technologies, seeking to divest 8% to 10% of the company, is about one-third of the way through that effort, according to a top executive.

Dana Mehnert, who leads the company's communications systems segment, told Inside Defense this week that the effort has not been slowed by the ongoing pandemic.

Earlier this year, Bill Brown, L3Harris' chief executive, said the company's deal to sell Leidos its airport security businesses was the largest, but not the last of its divestitures.

Mehnert noted that transaction closed during the coronavirus crisis. "I thought that might get delayed -- it didn't," he said.

Meanwhile, he said L3Harris has moved quickly to ensure about half of its employees can work remotely and to add safety measures at facilities that require in-person attendance. Mehnert said L3Harris has been able to minimize absenteeism.

He told Inside Defense the company has seen a "mixed bag" in terms of government procurement during the pandemic.

"There have been some delays and, in particular, [from] those agencies that have gone to alternative work shifts," he said. "On the other hand, I think the leadership has really recognized the need to move out quickly."

Mehnert said he expects the crisis to result in permanent changes for the company's operations.

"We'll probably have a larger portion of our workforce working remotely," he said, noting that L3Harris has seen many employees be as effective or more effective than when they were in the office.

Additionally, he said the outbreak has shed light on supply chain resiliency.

"It's revealed some areas where we need to better understand who are the second- and third-tier suppliers" to L3Harris suppliers, Mehnert said. There could be "some areas where we need to do more vertical integration because it's too critical to leave a more extended supply chain."