The Insider

By Justin Doubleday
December 16, 2020 at 10:19 AM

The Pentagon has awarded the National Spectrum Consortium a five-year, $2.5 billion other transaction agreement to continue running a range of wireless technology experiments for the military, the group announced today.

The “Spectrum Forward” OTA’s goal “is to facilitate a partnership between the U.S. Technology and Industrial base and the U.S. Government to develop dual-use technologies across a range of advanced technologies that rely upon electromagnetic spectrum from machine learning to autonomous navigation to next-generation radio access networks,” according to a statement released by the NSC.

“The United States has been the global leader in mobile technologies for decades,” Sal D’Itri, chairman of the NSC, said as part of the group’s announcement. “Now, as 5G takes hold, we need to invest in the development of a new wave of capabilities that will once again redefine the technology landscape.”

The consortium has 384 members including traditional defense contractors, telecommunications corporations, small technology businesses and universities, according to its website. The NSC itself is managed by Advanced Technology International.

The consortium was initially established in 2015 under a five-year, $1.25 billion OTA to help the Pentagon manage electromagnetic spectrum access for military systems. Over the past two years, the group has served as the primary venue for the Pentagon’s fifth-generation wireless technology prototyping activities.

The NSC awarded $600 million in 5G prototyping awards in October, with more awards planned for early next year.

The Defense Department has requested nearly $500 million for 5G prototyping in fiscal year 2021. DOD officials are looking to use 5G technologies for a range of applications, including dynamic spectrum sharing technologies, smart warehouse prototypes, virtual reality training and disaggregated command-and-control systems.

By Sara Friedman
December 15, 2020 at 7:07 PM

The Defense Department has announced the first round of pilot contracts that will include requirements under the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program for the current fiscal year.

"For approved pilots, all offerors will undergo the appropriate CMMC assessment, and awardee must achieve the required CMMC level at time of contract award, and flow down the appropriate CMMC requirement to subcontractors," the Pentagon said today in a news release. "This allows for additional time to meet the CMMC certification requirement."

The "Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) team for Acquisition and Sustainment' is reviewing "pilot nominations from the military services and defense agencies" for:

* U.S. Navy

-- Integrated Common Processor

-- F/A-18E/F Full Mod of the SBAR and Shut off Valve

-- DDG-51 Lead Yard Services / Follow Yard Services

* U.S. Air Force

-- Mobility Air Force Tactical Data Links

-- Consolidated Broadband Global Area Network Follow-On

-- Azure Cloud Solution

* Missile Defense Agency

-- Technical Advisory and Assistance Contract

An interim rule implementing the Pentagon's CMMC program went into effect on Nov. 30. The CISO team is "currently reviewing and adjudicating the comments," according to DOD.

The Defense Department has estimated 1,500 companies in the defense industrial base will need to get certified under CMMC during fiscal 2021 to compete for the pilot contracts.

"During the first year of the rollout, the Department will require no more than 15 new Prime acquisitions to meet CMMC requirements as part of a CMMC pilot program," the Defense Department says on its CMMC website. "These contracts will focus on mid-sized programs that require the contractor to process or store CUI (CMMC Level 3). Primes will be required to flow down the appropriate CMMC requirement to their subcontractors."

CMMC will expand to 75 contracts in fiscal 2022 and scale up to 475 contracts in fiscal 2025.

The Defense Department said on Tuesday: "The CISO team continues to work with the Army and other defense agencies to identify and approve additional candidate CMMC pilots, to ensure they fit within the criteria, and will provide updates in the weeks to come."

By Courtney Albon
December 15, 2020 at 4:22 PM

The Space Force has finalized its plan for a new Space Systems Command and expects to start building the organization early next year.

Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond told reporters today the service “did the table slap” on the SSC design in the last few days and will brief it to Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett in the next few weeks. The service expects to officially stand up the new organization next spring.

Raymond said the SSC organizational structure builds on work the Space and Missile Systems Center has done over the past two years to transition from stovepiped acquisition programs to a more enterprise, streamlined system aimed at fielding capabilities more quickly and efficiently.

“It builds on that,” Raymond said. “It builds some unity of effort and allows competition between disruptors and prototypers and more traditional acquisition organizations. . . . We’re excited about how this is going to materialize.”

Space Systems Command is one of three Space Force field commands the service announced earlier this year. Space Operations Command was formally established in October and Space Training and Readiness Command is slated to stand up next year.

Raymond said the SSC design focuses on enabling the service to delegate acquisition authorities down to lower levels of authority -- a shift that has already begun to happen and one that he says allows “the experts” to make key program decisions. The goal, he said, is “a very flat, lean organization with the right lines of acquisition authority to be able to support future delegations and future flexibility that we think is going to be so important.”

“We’re going to slow, and we need to put our foot on the gas pedal -- and we think this organizational structure will enable us to do that,” Raymond said.

By Sara Sirota
December 15, 2020 at 4:09 PM

(Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a statement from a Kratos executive.)

A communications gateway prototype successfully facilitated a secure two-way data path across multiple platforms but lost connectivity while integrated with an XQ-58A Valkyrie during the drone’s first semi-autonomous flight alongside F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, the Air Force announced in a press release Monday.

The tests occurred Dec. 9 at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ, and supported the Air Force’s efforts to achieve joint all-domain command and control using technology products from the Advanced Battle Management System program.

The ABMS “gatewayONE” product is intended to enable fifth-generation aircraft using incompatible digital languages to exchange data with one another as well as other platforms and battle managers. The prototype achieved nine of 18 test objectives during the Dec. 9 demonstration with a Marine Corps F-35B and Air Force F-22 and F-35A.

The technology successfully pushed data typically relegated to an operations center or tactical ground node directly into the cockpit, moved position data of each aircraft outside its close-proximity formation and passed cues from ground operators to the fighters and a cue between the jets themselves for the first time.

The gatewayONE also established a communications pathway between a KC-46 Pegasus tanker and a ground node and enabled the F-35B to send full-motion video to a ground controller, the notice states.

Also for the first time, the Air Force integrated gatewayONE with an ABMS “attritableONE” XQ-58A drone, which is intended to be low-cost and reusable. However, the communications payloads lost connectivity shortly after takeoff, preventing the Air Force from achieving these test objectives.

Nevertheless, Kratos’ Valkyrie conducted its inaugural, semi-autonomous flight with the F-22 and F-35 -- marking a significant accomplishment for the aircraft after its rocket-assisted take-off system experienced an issue that drove the Air Force Research Laboratory to abandon a flight test this summer.

Steve Fendley, president of Kratos' unmanned systems division, said in a statement shared with Inside Defense today: "Kratos is extremely proud of the roles our XQ-58A Valkyrie and personnel are playing in enabling and demonstrating this key ABMS capability while aimed at maximizing the effectiveness of the exquisite 5th generation fighter systems. We are committed to development and realization of affordable defense technologies making today particularly exciting for us with this substantial achievement."

Lt. Col. Kate Stowe, the Air Force’s gatewayONE program manager, said in the Air Force's release that among the Dec. 9 test activities, “the real win of the day was seeing the gatewayONE establish a secure two-way translational data path across multiple platforms and multiple domains.”

“The future is promising, and gatewayONE will allow the F-22 and F-35 to connect to and feed data sources they've never before accessed,” Lt. Col. Eric Wright, an F-35 pilot with the 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron, added. “Those future connections will bring additional battlefield awareness into the cockpit and enable integrated fires across U.S. forces.”

By John Liang
December 15, 2020 at 1:35 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Air Force's Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar program and more.

Keep an eye out next February for a Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar contract:

Air Force eyes new 3DELRR integration contract by February

The Air Force's Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar program office expects to award at least one integration contract for the program's new rapid prototyping effort in February, after three companies demonstrated production-ready systems this summer.

Turkey's acceptance of a Russian air defense system has led to the U.S. government imposing sanctions:

U.S. imposes sanctions on Turkey over S-400 purchase

The U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on the Turkish government today after Ankara ignored the Trump administration's numerous appeals to reverse its 2018 purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system.

The White House Office of Management and Budget has a proposed five-year plan beginning in fiscal year 2022 to divert $45 billion from the Army and Air Force to offset costs of growing the Navy fleet to more than 400 warships:

Trump trims Army to finance Navy fleet in lame-duck FY-22 budget gambit

The Army would be forced to dial back modest end strength increases planned for the near-term in order to help finance a lame-duck proposal by the Trump administration to dramatically increase the size of the Navy fleet, a move that would shave 1,700 troops from a planned increase of 6,700 -- a 25% decrement between fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

The Air Force's Gremlins drones had problems during a recent test:

Gremlins mid-air retrieval testing extended to 2021 after failed demo

Three X-61A Gremlins drones failed to enter the proper position for mid-flight recovery during the program’s latest test, again delaying the long-awaited first demonstration of the signature airborne retrieval system to 2021, according to a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency press release Thursday.

BAE Systems last week won a multimillion-dollar Amphibious Combat Vehicle contract:

Marine Corps awards BAE Amphibious Combat Vehicle full-rate production contract

The Marine Corps has awarded BAE Systems a $184 million contract for 36 full-rate production Amphibious Combat Vehicles following the program's initial operational capability declaration last month.

By Marjorie Censer
December 15, 2020 at 11:54 AM

Space company Redwire said today it has acquired LoadPath, which develops payload adapters, deployable structures and thermal products for the space industry.

Redwire did not disclose the price.

Based in New Mexico, LoadPath was founded in 2009 and "specializes in the development and delivery of advanced engineered products and services for launch vehicles and satellite manufacturing," Redwire said.

The company has supported more than 20 spaceflight missions for customers including NASA and the Pentagon as well as commercial customers. Under the deal, Adam Biskner and Greg Sanford, LoadPath's founders, will become part of Redwire.

Private equity-owned Redwire was formed earlier this year; LoadPath is its fifth acquisition.

By Marjorie Censer
December 15, 2020 at 11:50 AM

Northrop Grumman said today it will begin collaborating with and investing in Deepwave Digital to "support research, development and integration of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies."

Deepwave Digital is focused on allowing radio frequency engineers to include AI in communications, spectrum monitoring, navigation and other RF systems, according to Northrop.

"Northrop Grumman began working with Deepwave Digital when the company participated in a recent technology scouting event," the contractor added. "Northrop Grumman plans to continue seeking out discriminating technologies by forging creative partnerships."

By Jaspreet Gill
December 15, 2020 at 9:30 AM

LiquidPiston has been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research contract by the Army to develop the X-Engine platform for the its small tactical power generators, the company announced today.

The engine will power small tactical generators ranging from 2 kilowatts to 5 kW. The company’s small tactical generator concept is more than an 80% reduction in weight and almost 70% reduction in size compared with currently fielded generators and can increase fuel efficiency by up to 30%, a Dec. 11 LiquidPiston press release states.

The company in September was also awarded a contract to develop its X-Engine as a hybrid-electric propulsion platform for unmanned aerial vehicles.

The engine will provide UAVs with the ability to cruise in quiet mode using electric-only power and the ability to restart the engine mid-flight, according to a Sept. 15 LiquidPiston press release.

By Sara Sirota
December 14, 2020 at 3:35 PM

The Air Force Research Laboratory has successfully demonstrated a small warhead designed to increase the distance high-speed weapons can travel.

The 846th Test Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, NM, performed the sled test of the warhead, developed with Energetic Materials & Products and Hydrosoft International, on Nov. 18, AFRL announced in a press release today.

“A rocket sled accelerated the warhead at high speeds and an electric circuit at the end of the track detonated the warhead precisely on target,” Michael Denigan, AFRL’s principal investigator for the experiment, said in the release. “This demonstration gives our industry partners confidence that this smaller warhead solution will perform well in actual flight.”

Since the warhead is less than half the weight of a conventional design and takes up significantly less space, high-speed weapons will be able to hold more fuel and travel further, Col. Gary Haase, director of AFRL’s munitions directorate, added.

The release doesn’t indicate when the next test may occur.

By Tony Bertuca
December 14, 2020 at 2:36 PM

The Pentagon announced today it intends to appoint several new members to the Defense Policy Board in the waning days of the Trump administration.

New members tapped for the advisory board include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), former Ambassador Thomas Carter, historian and consultant Edward Luttwak, retired Air Force Capt. Scott O'Grady, presidential adviser Thomas Stewart, former Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), former Sen. Robert Smith (R-NH) and former Ambassador Charles Glazer, according to a Pentagon announcement.

Last week, the Pentagon announced Hudson Institute analyst Michael Pillsbury would be appointed to chair the board, while former National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, who recently stepped down from her job amid disagreements with Energy Department leaders, would become a new member.

Several members of the Defense Policy Board were removed last month including Henry Kissinger and Madeline Albright, both former secretaries of state.

Most members of the Defense Business Board, another Pentagon advisory group, were also removed and replaced with individuals close to President Trump and the White House.

The actions reflect the Trump team's last-minute effort to leave its mark on the Pentagon, though the incoming Biden administration could easily undo them. It is also unclear if the new board members will be able to be officially seated before Trump leaves office.

Trump announced his intent to nominate O'Grady, who became famous in 1995 when he was shot down over Bosnia, for assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, but there is little chance he will be confirmed and serve in the post and President-elect Joe Biden is slated to take office Jan. 20 and is likely to make his own nomination.

O'Grady, meanwhile, has been in the news for promoting conspiracy theories and for advocating Trump declare martial law to overturn the election.

Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, who was chosen last month to replace the fired Mark Esper in the wake of Trump's election defeat, praised the new board members.

"These incoming members bring extensive defense and national security affairs experience to this advisory committee from their time in Congress, the State Department, our armed forces and beyond," he said. "I'm confident the Department of Defense will benefit greatly from their time and service to the board."

By John Liang
December 14, 2020 at 1:38 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Air Force chief of staff's new action orders, the Gremlins drone experiencing testing problems, a Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle contract award and more.

The Air Force's top uniformed official has issued a bunch of action orders to his service:

CSAF Brown's 'Accelerate Change or Lose' action orders could drive changes to FY-22 POM

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown today released a list of action orders guiding the implementation of his "accelerate change or lose" mandate, including the creation of new force presentation plans that could drive changes to fiscal year 2021 and 2022 program execution and planning.

Several drones had problems during a recent test:

Gremlins mid-air retrieval testing extended to 2021 after failed demo

Three X-61A Gremlins drones failed to enter the proper position for mid-flight recovery during the program’s latest test, again delaying the long-awaited first demonstration of the signature airborne retrieval system to 2021, according to a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency press release Thursday.

BAE Systems recently won a multimillion-dollar Amphibious Combat Vehicle contract:

Marine Corps awards BAE Amphibious Combat Vehicle full-rate production contract

The Marine Corps has awarded BAE Systems a $184 million contract for 36 full-rate production Amphibious Combat Vehicles following the program's initial operational capability declaration last month.

In case you missed it, the Navy finally submitted its 30-year shipbuilding plan to Congress:

Navy shipbuilding plan calls for 400-ship battle force fleet by 2045

The Navy's latest 30-year shipbuilding plan calls for an over 400-ship battle force fleet by 2045, driven largely by increases in amphibious warfare ships, small surface combatants, submarines and logistic ships.

Document: Navy's 30-year shipbuilding plan

Related info drawn from the FY-22 "fiscal planning framework" that accompanied the shipbuilding report:

Trump trims Army to finance Navy fleet in lame-duck FY-22 budget gambit

The Army would be forced to dial back modest end strength increases planned for the near-term in order to help finance a lame-duck proposal by the Trump administration to dramatically increase the size of the Navy fleet, a move that would shave 1,700 troops from a planned increase of 6,700 -- a 25% decrement between fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

By Marjorie Censer
December 14, 2020 at 12:26 PM

Following its completed acquisition, 1901 Group, which specializes in managed IT services and cloud solutions, will likely begin as a wholly owned subsidiary aligned with Leidos' defense group, according to the head of the defense business.

In an interview with Inside Defense last week, Gerry Fasano said it makes sense for 1901 Group to be paired with the defense group because defense customers have more quickly shifted to managed services.

However, Fasano added, “this is truly going to be a corporate asset” and the company is seeking to use 1901’s platform “across all groups.”

He told Inside Defense Leidos noticed the market shifting to “a managed services buying habit,” particularly as the Army and Air Force turned to other transaction authorities for these kinds of procurements.

“We liked some of our approach, but we didn’t have an end-to-end managed services offering,” Fasano added.

Leidos began to partner with 1901 Group and was impressed with the company’s capability.

Now, with the deal announced and moving forward, Fasano said the integration teams are starting to meet to prepare for the deal’s closing.

By Aidan Quigley
December 14, 2020 at 11:49 AM

The Navy has launched an effort to review the service’s information technology infrastructure to ensure it is fully utilizing its over $4 billion annual IT budget.

In a Dec. 9 memo, senior Navy and Marine Corps officials wrote the review would help the services better understand their IT inventory, bring better accountability and execution to the IT budget and identify key cyber terrain.

“The purpose of the review is to identify potential courses of action to improve the value produced by the substantial annual IT spend in order to reinvest in IT priorities and return funds to the broader DON, both in the near term and in POM-23,” the memo said.

The results of the review will inform future naval IT decisions, the memo said.

The memo was signed by Aaron Weiss, the Navy’s chief information officer; acting Navy Comptroller Alaleh Jenkins; Hondo Geurts, the Navy’s acquisition executive; Adm. William Lescher, the vice chief of naval operations and Gen. Gary Thomas, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
December 14, 2020 at 11:39 AM

The Army's capability and equipment for fighting in the Arctic has degraded over the past several decades, the service's top officer in Alaska said Dec. 11.

“If I were to describe the Army’s ability to operate in the environment, it’s atrophied,” said Maj. Gen. Peter Andrysiak, commander of U.S. Army Alaska, during an event hosted by the Wilson Center.

About 50 of the Army’s cold-weather light tactical vehicles, the Small Unit Support Vehicle, remain in service in Alaska, down from 700 at the fleet’s peak, he said. The Army has sought to replace the vehicle, which has been in service since the early 1980s.

The Army is making progress in rebuilding its training in Alaska’s brutal winters, and Army Futures Command and the rest of the Army’s leadership has supported modernization efforts, Andrysiak said. He said trainings have been too focused on individual skills.

“We’re not training at duration, we’re not training at echelon, we’re not training at scale,” Andrysiak said. The Army in Alaska has worked to expand and revamp the annual Arctic Warrior Games. It is also developing new strategies and expanding the space available for training in the state.

Col. J. P. Clark, who is involved in writing the Army’s new Arctic strategy, agreed that training in the region needs to be updated.

“We simply have to rebuild domain expertise through training,” Clark said. “We have to train units to succeed at echelon, not just individually to survive.”

The emergence of hypersonic missiles and other mid-range capabilities could provide new opportunities for the Army in Alaska, Clark said.

The Army’s updated Arctic strategy should be available in February, Clark said.

By Marjorie Censer
December 14, 2020 at 11:24 AM

ManTech International said today it has acquired cybersecurity company Tapestry.

The Chambersburg, PA-based Tapestry was founded in 2005 and has about 150 employees.

ManTech said the company offers "a full range of cyber defense solutions and expertise, including cyber architecture and policy development, DevSecOps-based systems and software engineering and cyber training."

"This acquisition enhances and extends ManTech's cyber defense capabilities within the Department of Defense, adding customers, new past performance qualifications as well as mission-critical contracts," ManTech added.