The Insider

By Tony Bertuca
March 24, 2021 at 12:55 PM

The embattled nomination of Colin Kahl to become under secretary of defense for policy has advanced beyond the Senate Armed Services Committee to the full Senate, where he will likely need Vice President Harris to cast a tie-breaking vote to send him to the Pentagon.

The committee voted 13-13 along party lines, meaning Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) can advance Kahl’s nomination using a procedural maneuver.

Kahl has the support of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), but his nomination is being opposed by Ranking Member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and other Republicans, who have criticized Kahl's past tweets and policy statements, as well as the role he played in the Obama administration's 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Inhofe has said he does not think Kahl will get any Republican votes.

If Kahl's nomination is opposed by all 50 Senate Republicans, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) could be the swing vote.

Manchin, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, voted to advance Kahl's nomination to the full Senate. If Manchin supports Kahl's nomination on the floor, Harris could cast the tie-breaking vote.

Inhofe laid out his opposition to Kahl in a statement yesterday.

"This is the number-three position at the Pentagon -- and the policy role is currently even more important because the United States is facing more threats than ever before," Inhofe said. "This position demands bipartisanship, even temperament and good policy judgment -- characteristics I don't believe Dr. Kahl has demonstrated."

Kahl has pledged to be "nonpartisan," if confirmed, and has apologized for past tweets that may have been "disrespectful," including one in which he called the GOP "the party of ethnic cleansing."

Kahl has also been criticized for tweeting "we are all going to die" following the naming of John Bolton as former President Trump's national security adviser.

"The last few years have been pretty polarizing on social media. I am sure there are times that I got swept up in that," Kahl said during his nomination hearing. "There were a number of positions that President Trump took that I strongly opposed. I think the language that I used in opposing those was sometimes disrespectful and for that I apologize."

During the hearing, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said Republicans' remarks about Kahl's past tweets are "pretty rich" in that GOP lawmakers often declined to comment on or claimed not to read the Twitter feed of Trump, who was banned by the social media platform in January following a violent riot at the Capitol.

At present, the only Senate-confirmed officials at the Pentagon are Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, both of whom were confirmed with overwhelming bipartisan votes.

By Marjorie Censer
March 24, 2021 at 10:55 AM

Leonardo said today it will postpone the initial public offering of shares of U.S. subsidiary DRS.

"Notwithstanding investor interest within the price range during the course of the roadshow, adverse market conditions did not allow an adequate valuation of DRS," the company said. "DRS remains a core part of Leonardo's business portfolio and the IPO will potentially be revisited when market conditions are more favorable and a successful IPO at an appropriate valuation for this strategic business can be achieved."

Leonardo added it "remains excited about the prospects of DRS and will continue to support its development within the Leonardo Group."

By Courtney Albon
March 24, 2021 at 10:43 AM

The Air Force Research Laboratory is seeking next-generation cyber technologies that align with its vision for cyber superiority and could award up to $975 million toward the effort over the next five years through a new broad agency announcement.

The BAA, released Tuesday, is focused on innovative cyber capabilities to support cyber mission assurance in the Air Force and Space Force. AFRL is interested in a number of technologies, including cyber modeling and simulation, decision support for cyber missions, secure development tools and techniques and zero trust computing, among others.

The lab expects to award $121 million in fiscal year 2021 and notes that contracts will range from $100,000 to $99 million. White papers for FY-21 awards are due April 5.

By Tony Bertuca
March 23, 2021 at 6:41 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee has confirmed it is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the nomination of Colin Kahl to become under secretary of defense for policy, despite broad Republican opposition.

Kahl has the support of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), but his nomination is being opposed by Ranking Member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and other Republicans. Their opposition has focused on several of Kahl’s past tweets and policy statements, along with the role he played in the Obama administration’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

If Kahl’s nomination advances out of the committee, it will move to the full Senate. As Kahl’s nomination is likely to be opposed by all 50 Senate Republicans, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) could be the swing vote. If Manchin, who has yet to offer public support for Kahl, votes in favor of his nomination, Vice President Harris could then cast a tie-breaking vote to send Kahl to the Pentagon.

Manchin’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Inhofe said he doesn’t see Kahl as suited to the role.

“This is the number-three position at the Pentagon -- and the policy role is currently even more important because the United States is facing more threats than ever before,” Inhofe said. “This position demands bipartisanship, even temperament and good policy judgment -- characteristics I don’t believe Dr. Kahl has demonstrated.”

At present, the only Senate-confirmed officials at the Pentagon are Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

Kahl, meanwhile, has pledged to be “nonpartisan,” if confirmed, and has apologized for past tweets that may have been “disrespectful,” including one in which he likened the GOP to the “party of ethnic cleansing.”

"The last few years have been pretty polarizing on social media. I am sure there are times that I got swept up in that," he said during his nomination hearing. "There were a number of positions that President Trump took that I strongly opposed. I think the language that I used in opposing those was sometimes disrespectful and for that I apologize."

During the hearing, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said Republicans' remarks about Kahl's past tweets are "pretty rich" in that GOP lawmakers often said little or claimed not to read the infamously volatile Twitter feed of former President Trump, who was banned by the social media platform in January following a riot at the Capitol.

But Republicans likened Kahl's nomination to that of Anthony Tata, whom Trump nominated to be Pentagon policy chief. His nomination was withdrawn amid bipartisan concerns over past tweets he made about Muslims, conspiracy theories and former President Obama. Trump eventually named Tata acting DOD policy chief.

By Marjorie Censer
March 23, 2021 at 3:10 PM

Ondas Networks has formed a strategic partnership with Rogue Industries, which specializes in getting emerging technologies to government, as it pursues more work with the Defense Department.

In an interview with Inside Defense last week, Eric Brock, the chief executive of Ondas Networks, said the company specializes in software-based wireless broadband technology, primarily for industrial markets, from railroads to utilities and other critical infrastructure.

These customers "operate over wide field areas -- it's not just wide, it's extremely wide," Brock said. "They need connectivity to connect with their people, their assets and their machinery."

He said government and military markets too are critical businesses operating over wide areas that are similarly often in need of additional bandwidth.

Brock said Ondas saw opportunity in partnering with Rogue to help it move into the government and defense market.

"They can kind of open the door," he said, noting the company sees existing legacy networks as "ripe to be upgraded."

Rogue is focused on helping Ondas get "streamlined access into current spending programs," Brock added. The company will be able to "expose us to these current programs that would take us years – we'd have to make a big investment internally."

By Ethan Sterenfeld
March 23, 2021 at 2:29 PM

The Army's modernization efforts will require a sustained jump in procurement spending around the end of this decade, but this increase has yet to appear in official planning, according to a March 23 report from the American Enterprise Institute.

"The mid-2020s will see a significant uptick in Army procurement spending as research programs move into procurement, leading to a massive crunch in the late 2020s and early 2030s resulting from full-scale replacement of its ground vehicle and helicopter fleets," according to the report. Mackenzie Eaglen, a resident fellow at AEI, wrote the report.

By 2030, the Amy plans to begin or continue procurement of at least three new ground combat vehicles, two new helicopters and multiple new long-range precision fires capabilities, Eaglen wrote. That is in addition to upgrades on many legacy systems.

Gen. James McConville, the Army chief of staff, has repeatedly said in recent weeks that the service must continue its modernization programs. Many of the systems the Army is replacing were first built during the Reagan administration or earlier.

The Army has planned for $96 billion in spending on modernization procurement from fiscal year 2026 to FY-31, Eaglen wrote. She wrote that this figure "truly mocks the Army's equipment needs," and that the actual spending will be far higher if the modernization plans succeed.

Much of the funding needed for these programs has yet to appear in official plans for the future budget, and it could be a challenge to get congressional approval, Eaglen wrote.

"Congress has previously shown support for the Army's acquisitions reckoning in its funding of Army modernization priorities," she wrote. "However, with the Navy's evermore ambitious shipbuilding plans, and potential cuts to Army end strength as the U.S. military focuses on its posture in the Pacific, long-term congressional support for the Army's modernization plans may prove capricious."

The service has improved its modernization strategy since a number of expensive and public failures in the early 2000s, particularly with the establishment of Army Futures Command in 2018, Eaglen wrote.

By Jordan Wolman
March 23, 2021 at 2:00 PM

The Navy has reached its goal of 28 mission-capable E-2D aircraft five months ahead of schedule, the Navy announced in a press release last week.

The Navy had targeted July 1 as the original date to sustain 28 mission-capable E-2Ds, but had met that goal for the first time on Feb. 3. The next benchmark is sustaining 22 fully mission-capable (FMC) E-2Ds.

Connie Hempel, a spokeswoman for Naval Tactical Aircraft Programs, confirmed that the focus is on getting aircraft currently in the Navy's inventory to be fully mission capable.

The Naval Sustainment System-Aviation efforts launched in 2020 to improve aircraft readiness. The initiative is structured around the NSSA's six pillars and applies an integrated approach to increase spare parts, enhance capability and maintain aircraft to support the warfighter.

The pillars involved in the reform include the Aircraft on Ground maintenance operation center, fleet readiness center reform, organizational-level reform, supply chain reform, engineering and maintenance reform, and establishing a single point of accountability for governance and accountability.

In order to maintain the 28 aircraft deemed mission-capable, the Navy is focused on ensuring there are 37 available E-2D aircraft out of the total inventory of 46.

"The Navy invested in the E-2D because of the unique and critical warfighting capabilities it brings to the Navy and the Joint Force," Capt. Mike France, Airborne Command and Control and Logistics Wing commander, said in the press release. "Persistently maintaining 28 MC is an important milestone, but achieving 22 FMC E-2Ds sets the stage for us to win against adversaries. This is the critical number that supports deployed squadrons and high-end training."

France and Capt. Pete Arrobio said in the press release that the Navy is making progress on the goal of 22 FMC E-2Ds by prioritizing parts across aircraft, accelerating spares and repairs and improving reliability.

By John Liang
March 23, 2021 at 1:52 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the overall defense budget, the Air Force's Long-Range Standoff Weapon program and more.

Navy Adm. John Aquilino, nominated to be chief of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning:

Upcoming defense budget fights teased during INDOPACOM nomination hearing

A nomination hearing today for the admiral tapped to lead the U.S. military in the Asia-Pacific region showcased several emerging debates over the Pentagon's budget, the embattled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and the overall approach to countering China.

Document: Senate hearing on INDOPACOM nomination

The House Armed Services Committee's top Democrat spoke this week at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation:

Smith: DOD innovation, climate change efforts key to pushing back on progressive calls to cut defense

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) said boosting the Pentagon's efforts to drive U.S. technology innovation and combat climate change could help get progressives to back down from calls to cut the defense budget.

The Air Force is striving to reach the initial operational capability milestone for the Long-Range Standoff Weapon in FY-30:

USAF looking to restore LRSO funding after FY-21 budget cut

The Air Force is aiming to restore the nearly $90 million Congress cut from its fiscal year 2021 budget proposal for the Long-Range Standoff Weapon after the service pushed one of its two main contractors out of the program.

The Government Accountability Office this week released a report on hypersonic weapons:

GAO report reveals depth, scope of U.S. hypersonic weapons projects: 70 efforts, $15 billion

Congressional auditors have identified 70 projects focused on hypersonic weapons research and development backed by $15 billion through 2024 across the U.S. government, shining light into the breadth and scope of a campaign to field a new class of maneuvering ultra-fast weapons with the potential to shape the balance of power between the U.S. military and other major powers such as China and Russia.

Document: GAO report on hypersonic weapons

Vice Adm. William Galinis, head of Naval Sea Systems command, recently testified at a House Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing:

Galinis: Navy looking to accelerate shipyard improvement program

The Navy is seeking to accelerate its efforts to improve the infrastructure of its public shipyards, following calls from members of Congress to do so.

The Next Generation Interceptor project has been approved to proceed to the next phase of development:

Hicks approves NGI to proceed; contract award imminent for $2 billion, three-year initial design phase

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks has approved the Next Generation Interceptor project to proceed, clearing the way for the Missile Defense Agency to award a pair of contracts as well as seek $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2022 and FY-23 for the new Ground-based Midcourse Defense guided missile, according to a source familiar with the decision.

By Marjorie Censer
March 23, 2021 at 11:48 AM

Voyager Space Holdings said today it has appointed former Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord to its board.

"Lord will join the Board in providing strategy and guidance for Voyager as the company continues to successfully support the growth needs of commercial space companies through sustainable, long-term investments," the company said.

The space exploration company says its "long-term mission is to create a vertically integrated publicly traded NewSpace company capable of delivering any mission humans can conceive." Voyager's board already includes retired Air Force Gen. William Shelton, who previously led Air Force Space Command.

The company said Lord is currently heading her own business, called EML Enterprises, providing advisory services. She most recently was under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment and, before that, was chief executive of Textron Systems.

By Marjorie Censer
March 23, 2021 at 9:28 AM

Lockheed Martin said today it has entered into a strategic interest agreement with Washington, DC-based communications company Omnispace to "explore jointly developing 5G capability from space."

"The proposed global 5G standards-based non-terrestrial network (NTN) would offer commercial, enterprise and government devices ubiquitous communications worldwide," the companies said.

In the announcement, Rick Ambrose, who heads Lockheed Martin's space business, said the contractor and Omnispace want to create a space-based 5G global network that allows users to easily move between satellite and terrestrial networks.

By John Liang
March 22, 2021 at 1:34 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Navy shipyards, the Missile Defense Agency's Next Generation Interceptor program and more.

Vice Adm. William Galinis, head of Naval Sea Systems command, testified late last week at a House Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing:

Galinis: Navy looking to accelerate shipyard improvement program

The Navy is seeking to accelerate its efforts to improve the infrastructure of its public shipyards, following calls from members of Congress to do so.

Document: House hearing on 'organic industrial base'

The Next Generation Interceptor project has been approved to proceed to the next phase of development:

Hicks approves NGI to proceed; contract award imminent for $2 billion, three-year initial design phase

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks has approved the Next Generation Interceptor project to proceed, clearing the way for the Missile Defense Agency to award a pair of contracts as well as seek $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2022 and FY-23 for the new Ground-based Midcourse Defense guided missile, according to a source familiar with the decision.

Officials from Canada, Denmark, Norway, the United States and the United Kingdom late last week discussed their priorities in the Arctic region at a forum hosted by the Atlantic Council:

North American, European officials preach stability for evolving Arctic theater: 'No crisis right now'

Defense and diplomatic officials from key Arctic nations and the United States affirmed their shared commitment to peace in a region predicted to play an increasing role in global security and transit in the coming decades.

The Pentagon's No. 2 civilian spoke late last week at a virtual event organized by the National War College:

Hicks previews 'difficult decisions' on legacy systems, pledges to bridge 'valley of death'

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said the Pentagon would work with Congress to make "difficult decisions" to "phase out" legacy weapon systems unsuitable for competition with China, but also committed to help developing technologies bridge "the valley of death."

The head of Army Materiel Command spoke recently at the Association of the U.S. Army's Global Force Next conference:

AMC chief: Army modernization must include sustainment modernization

There are five primary ways in which the Army's sustainment operations will support modernization, according to Gen. Edward Daly, the leader of Army Materiel Command.

(For complete coverage of the Global Force Next conference, click here.)

By Aidan Quigley
March 22, 2021 at 1:17 PM

The Navy announced Friday that it had awarded General Dynamics Electric Boat a $2.4 Billion contract to build a second Virginia-class submarine, which was appropriated in the fiscal year 2021 budget.

The Trump administration initially proposed just one Virginia-class submarine, but reversed course following Congressional pushback.

House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee Chairman Joe Courtney (D-CT) said in a Friday press release that the subcommittee’s successful work to add the second Virginia-class submarine into the budget prevented layoffs and “further decline in the Navy’s aging, shrinking fleet.”

“Today’s award announcement will stabilize the program’s workforce and keep recapitalization of the attack submarine fleet on track,” he said.

By Marjorie Censer
March 22, 2021 at 12:11 PM

Draper said today it has named former Pentagon official Jennifer Santos as its "new principal director for strategic initiatives in its National Security and Space (NS&S) business."

“Santos will lead teams to address critical national challenges in defense and aerospace,” the company added.

Santos previously was deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy. She has also served as a naval research and development investment executive for the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition and as a professional staff member on the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, Draper said.

By Marjorie Censer
March 22, 2021 at 12:05 PM

ST Engineering said today it has submitted a proposal to acquire Cubic for $76 per share in cash, countering a previous offer from private-equity firms.

In its announcement, ST Engineering said its proposed deal “represents a premium of 8.6% compared to the US$70 per share in cash agreed to by Cubic with an affiliate of Veritas Capital and Evergreen Coast Capital Corporation which was announced on 8 February 2021.”

“ST Engineering is confident that its Proposed Transaction represents a superior proposal to the Veritas/Evergreen transaction,” the company said.

ST Engineering added that it sees Cubic’s transportation systems business as “an excellent fit with ST Engineering’s strategy to pursue growth in the Smart City domain, including mobility and transportation systems.”

Under the proposed deal, the Cubic transportation systems business would become the global headquarters of ST Engineering’s smart mobility business.

“ST Engineering intends to invest in CTS and retain the ‘Cubic’ brand,” the company said. “We will further strengthen Cubic’s leading position in digital mobility payments and smart mobility applications by combining the best technology and talent from both organisations.”

In its announcement, Cubic today confirmed it received the unsolicited proposal.

“The STE Proposal contemplates that, immediately following the acquisition of all of Cubic’s outstanding stock, STE would sell Cubic’s [mission and performance solutions] business to an affiliate of Blackstone Tactical Opportunities,” the company writes.

“The Veritas Merger Agreement remains in full force and effect, and the Board of Directors of Cubic has not withdrawn or modified its recommendation that the stockholders of Cubic vote in favor of the approval of the merger, the Veritas Merger Agreement and the transactions contemplated thereby,” the company added. “However, Cubic’s Board of Directors has determined that the STE Proposal is or would reasonably be expected to lead to a superior proposal.”

As a result, the board “has determined to engage in discussions with ST Engineering to further evaluate the merits and risks of the proposed transaction relative to the pending transaction with Veritas and Evergreen, including the value offered to our shareholders, the expected completion timing of each transaction, and the regulatory and closing risks associated with each transaction.”

By Courtney Albon
March 22, 2021 at 11:22 AM

The Government Accountability Office recently announced it will investigate the Air Force's base selection process for U.S. Space Command headquarters.

The Air Force in January announced its selection of Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL as the preferred permanent headquarters of SPACECOM. The command hub is temporarily located in Colorado Springs, CO, which formerly hosted Air Force Space Command.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) requested the review in a Feb. 1 letter to GAO, questioning the evaluation criteria for the decision and highlighting concerns that "there was untoward political influence exerted by President Trump on [Air Force] leaders to modify the process and ensure Huntsville, Alabama was chosen."

GAO announced in a March 19 letter to Lamborn that it would review the methodology and scoring of the Air Force's decision-making process.

The investigation is separate from a Defense Department inspector general review of the decision, which was initiated last month 210537. GAO notes that as it refines the methodology and scope of its review it will be in contact with the IG office to ensure it is not duplicating efforts.