The Insider

By Jaspreet Gill
March 18, 2021 at 4:11 PM

Textron has received a contract worth up to $607 million from the Army to upgrade the Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, the company announced today.

The company will "provide contract logistics support, field services and engineering support along with the retrofit of the existing Shadow Block II Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (TUAS) to the upgraded Block III configuration," according to the press release.

The award comes after the completed Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation of the Shadow Block III configuration, which was completed in October last year.

The work will be done in Textron's Hunt Valley, MD, facility over a five-year period and will modernize the current Block II and lead product, support and sustainment activities for the fleet, according to the press release.

"This award will enable the maintenance of the Shadow Unmanned Aircraft System and provides repairs and spares to support critical mission readiness levels for fielded systems," the press release states.

By Marjorie Censer
March 18, 2021 at 3:42 PM

Artificial intelligence firm Torch.AI, buoyed by a new $30 million investment, is pursuing additional defense work, particularly in what the company's chief executive describes as areas where it can "showcase" its capabilities.

The Leawood, KS-based company specializes in using machine learning to enable high-performance data processing. Brian Weaver, the company's founder and CEO, said the company has already been working for several years on background investigations for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency.

Torch.AI has partnered with Perspecta on the services piece of the work, he said, but the government has also directly acquired licenses for Torch.AI's platform.

"We've opted to partner with systems integrators and value-added resellers . . . as often as we can because we feel like that's a better, healthier strategy," Weaver said.

This week, Torch.AI announced it has raised $30 million in Series A funding to scale its Nexus AI platform. The funding was led by WestCap Group, a San Francisco-based investment firm.

Last year, the company announced it was growing its DC-area presence. The company added Marion Kennedy, an executive who has worked for intelligence contractors, to lead Torch.AI's expansion among defense, intelligence and civilian agencies and tapped Joe Imorde, a former Army intelligence officer and industry executive, to focus on growth with combatant commands, the Army and defense intelligence missions.

Now, Weaver said, Torch.AI is looking for work where the company can "showcase" its capabilities. He said the company is being "strategic" about the kind of work it pursues.

"We want to deal with really, really big problems, but we don't necessarily need them to be some huge financial win," Weaver said.

He told Inside Defense Torch.AI is particularly interested in the sensor space.

"If you think about sensors, and [internet of things] devices in general, the information is largely unstructured -- many, many classes of information that all need to be synthesized into a common operational picture," Weaver said. "We're very keenly involved in several sensor programs and very interested in that particular space."

By John Liang
March 18, 2021 at 2:03 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Commercially Augmented Space Inter-Networked Operations program office, the Next Generation Interceptor, the Long Range Discrimination Radar and more.

We start off with some space news:

SMC's CASINO working to leverage, connect proliferated LEO concepts across space architecture

As the Space Development Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency demonstrate key proliferated low Earth orbit capabilities over the next few years, the Space and Missile Systems Center is working alongside those teams -- both as a partner in technology development and as a connector, seeking opportunities to leverage and operationalize that work within the Space Force.

Some missile defense news:

Biden administration not yet sold on NGI, reviewing project to ensure 'responsible investments'

The Biden administration is not yet sold on the Missile Defense Agency's plan for a Next Generation Interceptor and is conducting a review of the project, which has completed the source-selection process and is now subject to further assessment by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

Pandemic delays LRDR initial operations target again; now slated for September

Missile Defense Agency plans to deliver the Long Range Discrimination Radar for operations is delayed again with a new setback pushing the key milestone from June to September, according to U.S. government officials.

Followed by some Air Force news:

JASSM program looking to offset cost, schedule risks from DOD's M-code delays

The Defense Department's challenges fielding a jam-resistant GPS signal is driving the Air Force to take precautionary steps to mitigate cost and schedule risks as it delivers the latest variant in the AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile product line.

Air Force limits and shortens ABMS on-ramps after FY-21 funding cut

Congress' decision to significantly reduce the Air Force's fiscal year 2021 budget proposal for the Advanced Battle Management System forced the service to limit the scope of the latest test event in Europe and cancel a major upcoming demonstration with Australia.

Some Future Vertical Lift news from the Army:

Rugen: Army can afford both FARA and FLRAA aircraft

Industry's investment in the Army's Future Vertical Lift modernization priority has made it possible for the service to afford both aircraft under the effort, a service official said today.

In a fight with China, the United States will need combat vehicles:

Army says conflict with China would escalate, require armor

Any war between the United States and China would quickly escalate outside the immediate region, so armor and other traditional Army capabilities would still be necessary, the commander of Army Futures Command said March 17.

Mike Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit, spoke at an online event this week:

Defense innovation leaders push for new technology transfer fund

Influential defense innovation leaders, asserting the Defense Department's slow budget process is hindering the adoption of new technology, are recommending Congress establish a technology transfer fund to serve as a "bridge fund" between promising prototypes and large programs of record.

Last but by no means least, some cyber defense news from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

CMMC-AB chair says assessment capacity for FY-21 pilot contracts will meet Pentagon expectations

CMMC Accreditation Body chair Karlton Johnson says his organization is prepared to meet the demand for assessments from contractors once the first certified, third-party assessment organizations are approved by the Defense Contract Management Agency.

By Aidan Quigley
March 18, 2021 at 1:06 PM

Congressional seapower leaders are calling for the Biden administration to name a Navy secretary as soon as possible as the country positions itself to counter China.

House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee Chairman Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), a member of the subcommittee, called on Biden to appoint a Navy secretary as soon as possible during a hearing on unmanned systems Thursday.

"It would be great, if the Biden administration is listening, if they moved with a sense of urgency to nominate a secretary of the Navy," Gallagher said. "This is our priority force, in the priority theater."

China is the "pacing challenge" for the United States, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last month. The Navy's latest shipbuilding plan calls for a major expansion of the fleet, with an over 400-ship battle force fleet by 2045 with an additional 119 unmanned surface vessels and 24 unmanned subsurface vessels.

Gallagher said that there were Democratic members of the subcommittee who would be well-qualified, as well as options in the private sector.

Courtney said he had spoken with members of the transition team in recent weeks to share the same sentiment.

"I couldn't agree more," Courtney said.

Former President Donald Trump nominated Phillip Bilden in January 2017 as his first nominee, but Bilden withdrew in February 2017. Trump nominated his first Navy secretary, Richard Spencer, in June 2017.

Courtney said during an event on Modern Expeditionary Warfare hosted by The Hill Thursday that the Navy secretary position is “critical,” due to the country’s strategic needs.

“Career officials find it very difficult to make those high-level decisions about priorities and policy,” he said. “I think our subcommittee is going to have to fill the vacuum.”

A Navy secretary will help the service navigate the budget process, which Courtney said would be compressed this year with the budget submission in late April or early May.

“We’re really anxiously looking for the day where we have a secretary of the Navy in the saddle, to sort of help with the highly competitive environment that is always in the budget space,” he said.

By Aidan Quigley
March 18, 2021 at 11:07 AM

The Program Executive Office for Tactical Aircraft Programs will be holding industry days to discuss the office's technological needs.

The unclassified, virtual industry days will be held May 18 and 19, the office announced.

"This opportunity is open to all companies that have new and innovative ideas to support the future of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and PEO(T) Programs," the announcement states.

On May 18, Rear. Adm. Shane Gahagan, the PEO(T) program executive officer, will speak, as will the 12 program managers within the PEO's portfolio. The program covers naval aviation aircraft, weapons and systems used by both the Navy and Marine Corps.

The program office is offering 10-minute, one-on-one conference calls with program representatives May 19. Interested businesses need to register in advance.

By John Liang
March 17, 2021 at 2:23 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the national security implications of climate change, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and more.

House defense appropriators held a hearing this morning on climate change in the Arctic:

House defense appropriators want DOD to address climate change vulnerabilities

Top members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee today voiced support for the Biden administration elevating climate change as a key national security topic and said the Defense Department should make investments to mitigate its vulnerabilities.

Document: House appropriators' hearing on climate change, national security and the Arctic


Related Arctic news:

New Arctic strategy establishes MDTF in Alaska, key lines of effort

The Army today released its Arctic strategy, which details how the service will train and equip forces to partner with its regional allies, including fielding a multidomain task force-enabled division and adjusting its Alaskan-based brigade combat teams.

Document: Army's Arctic strategy


The latest Joint Strike Fighter news:

F-35 JPO, Lockheed implementing software improvements identified by new integrated review team

The F-35 Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin have created a software-focused integrated review team aimed at helping the program identify and implement agile development and delivery processes that will improve the quality and cadence of future software releases.

The Association of the U.S. Army held a virtual Global Force Next conference this week:

Training at lower echelons could save the Army money

Shifting the Army's training to smaller formations could be an efficient way to both save money and increase readiness, Gen. James McConville, the service's chief of staff, said March 16.

Army undecided on separate competitions for OMFV subsystems

The Army has not decided whether to hold separate competitions for subsystems on the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, the service's program executive officer for ground combat systems said March 16.

House Democrats are seeking cuts to the defense budget:

Liberal lawmakers ask Biden for big defense cut

A group of 50 progressive House Democrats is asking President Biden to significantly cut the fiscal year 2022 defense budget rather than submit a "flat" request to Congress.

Document: House Dems' letter to Biden on defense budget cut


The Navy this week issued a new unmanned systems campaign plan:

Looking to the future of combat and competition, Navy releases much-anticipated campaign plan on unmanned systems

With an eye on China's huge naval fleet, the future of technology and possible flat defense budgets, the Navy and Marine Corps unveiled a plan today to expeditiously incorporate unmanned systems into the aviation, surface and subsurface fleets to keep up with the dynamic security landscape.

Document: Navy's unmanned campaign plan


Last but certainly not least, some missile defense news:

Lawmaker calls on Senate panel to urge DOD action on NGI: 'Hey, fund this now!'

A Senate missile defense proponent today called on colleagues to collectively urge Pentagon leaders to support the Next-Generation Interceptor program -- a project launched by the Trump administration -- that has largely completed the source-selection process to proceed with development but remains under review by the Biden administration.

Document: Senate hearing on SOUTHCOM, NORTHCOM

By Aidan Quigley
March 17, 2021 at 12:58 PM

Leidos is planning on adding 3,000 employees to work on the Navy's Next Generation Enterprise Network program, after winning a contentious $7.7 billion contract for the program.

Leidos CEO Roger Krone said at a J.P. Morgan virtual conference Tuesday that the company is also hoping some employees from incumbent Perspecta will join Leidos to continue to work on the NGEN program.

"Our hope is, as we ramp up over the summer, between Leidos and our teammates, we'll be adding more than 3,000 people to the NGEN program," Krone said. "A lot of those people will come from our teammates, but we are hopeful that some of the Perspecta employees who are currently on the Navy IT program will want to come to Leidos and keep supporting the Navy customer."

Leidos started work on the transition in January after a lengthy protest by Perspecta that included a Government Accountability Office filing and a federal lawsuit, both of which were denied.

NGEN provides information technology services to more than 400,000 hardware devices and more than 650,000 users at 1,700 locations around the world, according to the Navy.

By Sara Sirota
March 17, 2021 at 12:47 PM

The Air Force has chosen five companies that may receive contracts without full-and-open competition to field Stand-in Attack Weapon technologies on an accelerated schedule, according to a notice released today.

The Air Force is looking to rapidly prototype SiAW and deliver leave-behind assets within five years, the notice states. The service has found Boeing, L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are the only companies capable of developing and integrating advanced technologies within this timeframe.

SiAW is a variant of Northrop and the Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range and will be flown on the F-35 in anti-access/area-denial environments. The weapon will have a new warhead, electronic safe and arming fuze, universal armament interface and anti-radiation homing.

By Marjorie Censer
March 17, 2021 at 8:16 AM

The chief executive of Leidos said this week the company is busy integrating multiple acquisitions and not pursuing additional large deals.

Speaking at a J.P. Morgan virtual conference, Roger Krone noted the company has been very actively acquiring businesses. Among them are Gibbs & Cox, 1901 Group and L3Harris Technologies’ security detection and automation business.

“We are not overly enthusiastic about doing a lot more deals anytime soon,” Krone said at the conference. “That's not to say that we wouldn't do a technology play -- $25 [million] or $50 million technology play -- but we're happy with where we are.”

“We're going to focus a lot on integration and execution,” he added.

By Marjorie Censer
March 16, 2021 at 4:35 PM

The longtime chief executive of PAE will step down this week, according to a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In the document, PAE said John Heller, who has served as CEO since 2013, submitted his resignation "for personal reasons."

"Mr. Heller's letter provided that his resignation is effective on March 19, 2021," the company said. "Mr. Heller's resignation was not due to any disagreement with PAE Incorporated on any matter relating to its operations, policies or practices."

PAE said its board today named Charles Peiffer interim president and CEO, effective March 19. He has served as PAE's chief financial officer since 2014.

In a statement, PAE said the board will begin a search process for a new CEO.

"The Board will engage an executive search firm and will consider both internal and external candidates," the company said.

By John Liang
March 16, 2021 at 1:43 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a new Army force employment model, the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program and more.

Army officials at last year's Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference announced the service was building a new force employment model called the Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model, expected to be implemented across the entire service in fiscal year 2022:

New REARMM ROC drills leading Army modernization decisions

The Army is holding rehearsal of concept drills right now that will help the service make its modernization decisions and could potentially impact the fielding schedule of technologies, according to a service official.

Army Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman spoke Monday at a virtual event with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments:

Non-traditional contractors likely to bid for OMFV, Coffman says

The Army expects some "non-traditional" companies to submit proposals for the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, the Bradley fighting vehicle replacement, the director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross-Functional Team said March 15.

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), a seapower and projection forces subcommittee member and former Navy surface warfare officer, spoke this week at a Hudson Institute event:

Luria: Congress needs more information on Navy shipbuilding plans

The vice chair of the House Armed Services committee is calling for more information from the Navy on its recently released Battle Force 2045 shipbuilding plan.

Document: Rep. Luria's letter on Battle Force 2045 plan

The FCC is scheduled to vote this week on a draft order to open the 3.45-3.55 GHz band for commercial licenses:

FCC to vote on key block of mid-band spectrum used by military, defense contractors

The Federal Communications Commission this week will vote on an order outlining how a key slice of spectrum currently set aside for military use will be opened to commercial, fifth-generation wireless networks.

Inside Defense recently interviewed Vectrus CEO Chuck Prow:

Vectrus CEO says company sees opportunity to grow work with Navy in INDOPACOM region

The chief executive of Vectrus said this month the company is optimistic it will be able to expand its work through the Army's Logistics Civil Augmentation program in the Indo-Pacific Command region, particularly with the Navy.

By Justin Doubleday
March 15, 2021 at 6:17 PM

Stefanie Tompkins was sworn in as director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency today.

Tompkins worked at DARPA from 2007 to 2017, serving in a variety of positions including program manager and deputy director of the Strategic Technology Office, DARPA chief of staff, director of the Defense Sciences Office and acting deputy director of the agency.

Since 2018, Tompkins has worked as the vice president for research and technology transfer at the Colorado School of Mines.

Tompkins is one of President Biden's first political appointees within the Pentagon's research and engineering directorate. He has yet to name an under secretary of defense for research and engineering.

By Tony Bertuca
March 15, 2021 at 5:45 PM

The Defense Department today swore in several new officials, though Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks remain President Biden's only Senate-confirmed leaders at the Pentagon.

The new officials are:

  • Alex Sanchez, special assistant to the chief of staff to the Air Force secretary
  • Stefanie Tompkins, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • Daniel Erikson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for western hemisphere
  • Sarah Farnsworth, special assistant to the defense secretary for protocol
  • Joseph Federici, speechwriter, office of the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs
  • Siddharth Mohandas, deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia
  • Christian Urrutia, counsel to the general counsel

Meanwhile, the nomination of Colin Kahl to become under secretary of defense for policy is in doubt as Republicans are poised to vote against him. A "yes" vote from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) could give Kahl enough support in the 50-50 Senate to allow Vice President Harris to cast the deciding vote in his favor, but Manchin has yet to make up his mind.

Read a list of officials previously sworn in.

By Jason Sherman
March 15, 2021 at 5:16 PM

On the eve of Gen. Glen VanHerck's first 2021 posture hearing on Capitol Hill, North American Aerospace Defense Command -- the bi-national organization he oversees along with U.S. Norther Command -- has published an unclassified executive summary of a new strategy.

"This NORAD and USNORTHCOM Strategy is a combined strategy that aligns with objectives identified in the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, National Defense Strategy, and Canada's Strong, Secure, Engaged policy," according to the document, signed by VanHerck and issued today.

VanHerck, who testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, highlights concerns about China and Russia's ability to threaten the U.S. homeland.

"[O]ur competitors have analyzed our ability to operate overseas and have invested in capabilities such as ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, hypersonic weapons, small unmanned aircraft systems, artificial intelligence, cyber capabilities, and delivery platforms to offset our strengths while exploiting our perceived weaknesses," states the document. "These advancing capabilities embolden competitors and adversaries to challenge us at home, looking to threaten our people, our critical infrastructure and our power projection capabilities. As a result, the stakes are higher than they have been in decades and, for NORAD and USNORTHCOM, successful continental defense is the only option."

The strategy advances four "strategic principles" to achieve priorities: global integration; domain awareness, information dominance and decision superiority.

By John Liang
March 15, 2021 at 1:56 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has an interview with the CEO of Vectrus plus the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence's final report and more.

Inside Defense recently interviewed Vectrus CEO Chuck Prow:

Vectrus CEO says company sees opportunity to grow work with Navy in INDOPACOM region

The chief executive of Vectrus said this month the company is optimistic it will be able to expand its work through the Army's Logistics Civil Augmentation program in the Indo-Pacific Command region, particularly with the Navy.

The House Armed Services cyber, innovative technologies and information systems and the House Oversight national security subcommittee recently held a joint hearing on artificial intelligence:

Lawmakers coalesce around AI commission recommendations on talent, education

House lawmakers signaled broad support late last week for recommendations from the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence on developing, attracting and retaining AI talent, while further probing the Defense Department's digital shortcomings.

The recent $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package signed into law by President Biden extends the Defense Department's reimbursement authority through Sept. 30:

Congress extends DOD authority to reimburse pandemic-related costs, but leaves out funding

Congress has voted to extend the Defense Department's authority to reimburse defense contractors for COVID-19 pandemic-related costs, but lawmakers have yet to provide billions in supplemental funding the Pentagon says it will need to fully cover those costs.

The Navy's Strategic Systems Program office late last week announced the third contract associated with the joint Army-Navy program to develop a common rocket and glide vehicle for land- and sea-launch, respectively:

Lockheed nabs new hypersonic booster contract, raising total value of Army-Navy effort to $2.8 billion

The Navy is advancing work on an offensive hypersonic weapon, awarding Lockheed Martin a $1.5 billion contract to design, develop and build equipment needed to test and field a new two-stage rocket booster that will carry a planned ultrafast maneuvering glide vehicle.

The Army's top uniformed officer spoke last week at a virtual Defense Writers Group event:

McConville says he does not intend to cut end strength

Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army, said March 11 he does not intend to cut the Army's end strength this year, despite the expectation of greater pressure on the defense budget.

Some recent cyber defense news from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

Defense industry tabletop exercises show gaps in understanding certain CMMC requirements

Tabletop exercises conducted by the National Defense Industrial Association in coordination with Pentagon cyber certification leaders found areas of improvement are needed to clarify CMMC requirements for industry around operational technology and the marking of controlled unclassified information.