The Insider

May 3, 2018 at 12:10 PM | John Liang

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

1. The Defense Department wants to spend $1.2 trillion in the coming decades to modernize the U.S. nuclear triad, a sum that senior Pentagon officials behind the recent Nuclear Posture Review argue is both necessary and affordable, despite concerns on Capitol Hill that the plan will prove unrealistic amid mounting deficits.

Full story: Nuclear spending stands out in debate among competing defense priorities

2. An influential advisory panel says the Defense Department should have access to the source code for software running on custom-built systems if officials want to improve security, performance and the speed at which DOD fields software updates.

Full story: Innovation board: DOD should have source code for custom-built software

3. A pair of Defense Department offices has informed Congress that the Army's strategy to transform and modernize its tactical network has merit, but cautions it is too early to predict success and urges the service to further develop its implementation approach.

Full story: CAPE, DOT&E deem Army's network strategy 'suitable,' raise concerns

4. A two-year, bipartisan spending deal brokered in February has granted the Pentagon a period of fiscal stability, but that window is quickly closing as Congress eyes 2018 midterm elections and the return of mandatory budget caps.

Full story: Budget battle lines redrawn as Mattis seeks FY-20 stability

May 3, 2018 at 10:47 AM | Ashley Tressel

The Army recently conducted a test of combat vehicle operator protection technologies to inform the design of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, according to the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.

The demonstration at the Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland featured new technologies being developed to protect warfighters from vehicle underbody blasts. The technologies will be "instrumental" in the Army's decision to come in fiscal year 2023 on whether to advance to new ground combat vehicles or continue focusing on upgrades to the current fleet, according to Jeff Koshko, associate director of TARDEC's Ground Vehicle Survivability and Protection Laboratory.

The demonstrator contained a lightweight hull with an underbody solution, an energy-absorbing floor, modular semi-active seats and an active blast mitigation system.

The blast test, using life-sized mannequins, met the objectives of the Hull Frame Body Cab project: to design the occupant's space from the inside out, prevent catastrophic deformations in the vehicle hull that cause injury, control loads to reduce lower extremity injury, develop an integrated interior system and integrate an active blast mitigation system with other blast technologies.

TARDEC told Inside Defense a second test to confirm the findings from the first test has been scheduled, but was not able to release the date and time.

May 3, 2018 at 10:17 AM | Rachel Karas

The Air Force this week announced a preliminary decision to house the B-21 Raider at three bomber bases starting in the mid-2020s, eventually replacing the B-1 and B-2 bombers at each location.

Dyess Air Force Base, TX, Ellsworth AFB, SD, and Whiteman AFB, MO, are the service's preferred bases to take on the next-generation bomber, although the final selection is still pending until 2019.

"Using the current bomber bases will minimize operational impact, reduce overhead, maximize reuse of facilities and minimize cost," the service said in a May 3 press release. "Although the first B-21 [is] expected in the mid-2020s, the Air Force doesn't plan to retire the existing bombers until there are sufficient B-21s to replace them. The Air Force hasn't determined which location will receive the aircraft first."

The future bomber fleet will include only the B-21 and B-52, which is based at Barksdale AFB, LA, and Minot AFB, ND. B-52s are expected to fly through 2050.

May 2, 2018 at 4:28 PM | Justin Katz

(Editor's Note: Following publication, the Marine Corps has clarified comments made yesterday by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller at a Pentagon press briefing.

Neller appeared to be referencing a KC-130 crash last year when he discussed an airplane's "mechanical issue" and the family notification process following a pilot's death.

Asked for further details, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Christopher Harrison said Neller "was referencing the VMM-265 incident involving an MV-22 off the coast of Australia; the investigation and family notification process for this incident was just recently completed."

Harrison declined to comment on the KC-130 crash because that investigation is not finished.)


Top Navy leadership today declined to correlate a lack of funding with aviation mishaps, citing a lack of data to make the connection.

"There is not enough data right now to tell if there is an exact correlation," Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told reporters at the Pentagon during a briefing on the state of the service.

"We are training people to the requirements necessary. Those additive hours that people have in the cockpit or doing their jobs [are] only going to help. So now we have the funds to do that," he said. But "I don't have data to give you a direct correlation."

The statement from senior leadership is surprising because it conflicts with coordinated messaging from Capitol Hill that repeatedly connected a lack of funding with aviation and ship collisions.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, who spoke alongside Spencer and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, also declined to make a direct correlation between the two subjects. However, the top Marine general did say the service recently briefed families of 16 servicemembers killed in an aviation mishap last year.

"I think we have a pretty good idea of what happened to our plane last year. In that particular case, I'm not sure funding would have changed that," Neller said. "I'm not going to talk about it because the families have just been informed, but that was a mechanical issue."

Neller said funding does affect the number of available airplanes and the number of hours Marines can fly. But he also stressed that top brass cannot point to a single issue as the cause of mishaps.

"There's not one single thing that [we can] say it's because of this," Neller said. "We need more hours, we need better parts support, we need new airplanes, we've got to improve our procedures and we've got to stop doing stuff on the ground that causes us to lose otherwise pretty good airplanes."

May 2, 2018 at 2:10 PM | John Liang

The nuclear triad budget, the Army National Guard's Apache helicopter fleet and more highlight this Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest.

Spending to modernize the triad will, at its height, account for 6 percent to 7 percent of the overall defense budget:

Nuclear spending stands out in debate among competing defense priorities

The Defense Department wants to spend $1.2 trillion in the coming decades to modernize the U.S. nuclear triad, a sum that senior Pentagon officials behind the recent Nuclear Posture Review argue is both necessary and affordable, despite concerns on Capitol Hill that the plan will prove unrealistic amid mounting deficits.

The head of the Army National Guard spoke this morning at an AUSA breakfast:

Kadavy: ARNG working through Apache battalion size challenges

The Army National Guard has to borrow from two of its four remaining attack reconnaissance battalions to prepare the others for deployments, according to its director.

Closing the Pentagon's rapid acquisition hub could be detrimental to a number of Air Force projects, according to the service's acquisition chief:

Roper: Disbanding SCO would be detrimental to Air Force acquisition

The Air Force's top acquisition official said recently that if a proposal by House lawmakers to disband the Strategic Capabilities Office is successful, several of the service's development efforts could slip or be forced to restart.

Document: House authorizers' FY-19 policy bill marks

Navy acquisition executive Hondo Geurts told reporters this morning that the service has not changed its small surface combatant force-structure assessment:

Geurts: Additional LCSs in FY-19 would not change 20-ship FFG(X) buy

Whether Congress directs the Navy to purchase additional Littoral Combat Ships in fiscal year 2019 does not change the service's stance on buying at a minimum 20 guided-missile frigate replacement vessels.

Related: SECNAV wants to discuss with Marinette how its LCS price can become more competitive

The head of L3 Technologies spoke about his company's quarterly earnings this week:

L3 CEO: New executive leadership team should be complete by end of 2018

L3 Technologies' new executive leadership team should be complete by the end of this calendar year, according to the company's chief executive.

May 2, 2018 at 11:38 AM | John Liang

L3 Technologies announced this week it has agreed to sell its Vertex Aerospace business to American Industrial Partners for $540 million in cash.

As part of the deal, L3 will also sell its Crestview Aerospace and TCS business units, which are included in the Aerospace Systems business segment, according to a company statement.

L3 chief executive Chris Kubasik said in a statement that the move was "a strategic step toward optimizing L3's portfolio. We will use the proceeds from the sale to invest in the continued growth of L3, consistent with our capital allocation strategy and plans."

The deal, "subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals," is anticipated to be completed this summer, according to the statement.

Vertex Aerospace provides aviation logistics services, supply chain management, and maintenance, repair and overhaul services. Crestview Aerospace provides select rotary aircraft component fabrication and assembly, and TCS provides select engineering services and logistics support, according to L3.

In calendar year 2017, Crestview Aerospace and TCS generated $115 million of net sales, the L3 statement reads.

May 1, 2018 at 5:25 PM | Courtney Albon

Speaking Tuesday during a ceremony at the White House, President Trump again referenced the possibility of a new military service for space, which he has dubbed the "Space Force."

While presenting the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to the U.S. Military Academy's football team, Trump began listing the military services, adding "we're actually thinking of a sixth, and that would be the Space Force."

"We're getting very big in space," he continued. "Both militarily and for other reasons, we are seriously thinking of the Space Force."

This is the second time Trump has referenced the Space Force idea publicly.

House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Ranking Member Jim Cooper (D-TN) have been leading efforts in Congress to reform space management and acquisition within the Defense Department. The Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act directed the department to develop a plan to move toward the creation of a Space Corps and to hire an independent research organization to conduct a similar study.

Rogers said in a May 1 statement he is "thrilled" that the idea has support from the president, noting that his pitch for a Space Corps is similar to the Space Force Trump has touted. Rogers said he and the president spoke in April about the need for a separate military space service.

"I was honored to talk to President Trump about this critical initiative and appreciate his support on an issue that is so important to me and the safety and security of the United States," Rogers said.

Air Force officials have spoken out against the proposal, stating that large organizational changes would be a distraction from the service's mission.

May 1, 2018 at 3:31 PM | John Liang

Littoral Combat Ship manufacturer Austal USA announced today it has bought Charlottesville, VA-based ElectraWatch in an all-cash stock purchase.

Electrawatch, which develops and deploys portable probe devices that help maintain aluminum structures, "will remain a standalone business, part of the Austal USA portfolio," a company statement reads.

"The combination of ElectraWatch patented technology along with Austal USA's advanced ship manufacturing and sustainment expertise reinforces the company's position as an industry leader to efficiently support the aggressive shipbuilding and sustainment requirements from our U.S. Navy customer," Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle said in the statement.

May 1, 2018 at 3:01 PM | Tony Bertuca

The Government Accountability Office today established a new bid-protest process, which creates a new electronic docketing system and implements a new filing fee.

GAO first proposed the Electronic Docketing Protests System and $350 filing fee in April 2016.

Now, according to GAO, the EPADs will be the sole means for filing a bid protest with GAO, with exemptions for protests containing classified information or large documents that cannot be accommodated by the system.

May 1, 2018 at 2:52 PM | Justin Katz

This year's Marine Corps technology investment road map for industry and Defense Department organizations saw a 60 percent increase in collaboration from across the military's science and technology enterprises, according to a Marine Corps official.

The increased participation in the service's 2018 Advanced Technology Investment Plan, which was released last month, was one of the biggest changes from last year's ATIP, Michael Halloran, director of science and technology for program executive office land systems, told Inside the Navy in an April 25 interview.

Specifically, Halloran said the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory and the Navy's research labs identified more relevant projects and capabilities than last year.

Halloran also said the PEO's goal is to continue growing the visibility of the investment plan to include universities and other research organizations.

Organizations like the National Science Foundation and universities often have research projects that DOD could use but don't have "visibility into. The intent is to basically grow this [so] that everyone comes to play with their projects to meet the needs of the services," Halloran said.

One project included in this year's ATIP is a high-speed amphibious assault vehicle hull.

"To facilitate assault operations, the Marines need an amphibious vehicle that can quickly move troops and equipment between ships and the shore," the document said.

Further, current displacement hull-based assault vehicles do not meet the project's high-speed requirements, the document said.

Another focus of the investment plan is fuel efficiency for the Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1 as well as future vehicles.

"While relatively efficient, even the best vehicle turbodiesel engines have efficiencies of only 30 to 44 percent depending on operating condition," the document said. "Since the engine inefficiency is the largest energy loss, we will focus on scavenging waste energy from [the] power plant of the vehicle."

Although the effort is targeted at ACV 1.1, the document notes the plan's strategy for fuel efficiency has shown to increase efficiency for other large trucks by 5 percent.

"The technology that is developed within the proposed program will be transitioned to additional vehicles to improve fuel efficiency nationwide and to reduce the cost of the systems by using the economies of scale," the document said.

The investment plan is published annually to give industry and the Defense Department a sense of what technologies and capabilities the PEO is seeking.

May 1, 2018 at 2:25 PM | John Liang

The Marine Corps' contribution to the National Defense Strategy, the Pentagon's cloud computing plans, a multibillion-dollar Boeing purchase and more highlight this Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest.

Inside the Navy chatted with the Marine Corps' deputy commandant for combat development and integration this morning:

Marine Corps will leverage Navy's NDS role to achieve priorities

On the heels of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis telling lawmakers the National Defense Strategy has a maritime bent, the Marine Corps is positioning itself to assist the Navy in the realm of sea control and power projection, according to a service official.

An industry group wants more information about the Pentagon's cloud strategy:

Industry group lobbies Congress for transparency on DOD cloud strategy

An industry group representing information technology contractors wants Congress to provide greater transparency on the Pentagon's controversial plans to award a potentially lucrative cloud-computing contract to a single company.

Defense contractor M&A news:

Boeing buys KLX for $4.25 billion

Boeing announced today it has agreed to acquire Miami-based aerospace parts distributor KLX for $4.25 billion.

House authorizers really want the Air Force to look into developing a non-nuclear version of the Long-Range Standoff Weapon:

House lawmakers keep pushing for conventional LRSO despite Air Force opposition

Congress is doubling down on its position that the Air Force should pursue a conventional variant of the Long-Range Standoff Weapon, adding new language in the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee's mark of the fiscal year 2019 defense policy bill.

The Marine Corps is inching closer to selecting an Amphibious Combat Vehicle contractor:

Marines complete ACV operational assessment, downselect slated for mid-June

The Marine Corps recently completed the operational assessment for the Amphibious Combat Vehicle, and is waiting for after-action reports before downselecting to one vendor in mid-June, according to an official.

Keep an eye out this month for a hypersonic defense weapon system industry day:

To counter 'greatest threat,' DOD sets Hypersonic Defense Weapon Systems industry day

The Pentagon will brief industry this month on plans for Hypersonic Defense Weapon Systems, inviting proposals for technologies with the potential to defeat ultra-fast, maneuvering missiles -- a prospective new class of weapons that a top U.S. general said poses "the greatest threat" -- in a step that aims to launch work soon on a new element of the nation's missile defense system.

Document: MDA hypersonic defense weapon systems concept definition BAA

Document: MDA hypersonic defense component technology BAA

May 1, 2018 at 1:24 PM | John Liang

(Editor's Note: On May 15, SIGAR released an addendum to the report mentioned in this article with updated Afghan military personnel numbers. That addendum can be accessed here.)

The number of Afghan security personnel has sharply declined and the country has seen an uptick in the areas controlled by the Taliban, according to the latest report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

U.S. Forces Afghanistan "reported that the actual assigned strength of the [Afghan National Defense Security Force] as of January 2018 was 296,409, which includes 165,622 [Afghan National Army] and 130,787 [Afghan National Police] personnel. These figures represent a sharp decline in strength from the same period last year: the ANA saw a 4,818-person decrease, and the ANP a 23,210-person decrease, for a total of 35,999 fewer personnel in January 2018 compared to January 2017," according to SIGAR.

Additionally, as of Jan. 31, "14.5 percent of the country's total districts were under insurgent control or influence -- the highest level recorded since SIGAR began receiving district control data -- and 56.3 percent of districts were under Afghan government control or influence," the report, released May 1, states.

Since August 2016, "Afghan government control has decreased by roughly four percentage points, and the overall trend for the insurgency is rising control over the population (from 9 percent in August 2016 to 12 percent in January 2018), according to SIGAR.

The report also notes that in the two months between Dec. 15, 2017 to Feb. 15, 2018, the United Nations "recorded an average of 55.9 security incidents per day -- nearly four incidents per day higher than the same period two years ago."

As for munitions, the first quarter of 2018 saw 1,186 bombs dropped, "the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and . . . over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017," SIGAR states.

The report also states that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan's records "indicate that air operations in 2017 caused 631 civilian casualties including 295 deaths -- the highest number of civilian casualties from air strikes recorded in a single year. In contrast, [NATO's Resolute Support mission] provided a much lower figure for civilian casualties caused by Coalition air strikes, only 51 such casualties in 2017 and 11 between January 1 and March 2, 2018."

The report also describes a dangerously high population growth, "a situation described by an International Labor Office consultant report as a 'socio-economic time bomb.'"

May 1, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Courtney Albon

The Air Force's deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration told reporters Tuesday the service is in the midst of collecting a broad range of data intended to inform a nuclear mission assessment, which it will complete at the end of the year.

Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein said during a May 1 Air Force Association breakfast the assessment will integrate "a wide swath of metrics" on the nuclear enterprise, including its workforce, readiness posture, budget, sustainment and modernization.

The assessment was required in the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, and Weinstein said that while the service has been collecting this data for some time, it has never integrated it into a single database.

"It's really healthy to take all those items and bring it together," he said. "It was already being looked at. Now it's being looked at holistically."

May 1, 2018 at 11:38 AM | Justin Katz

The Marine Corps identified $3.6 billion in savings and cost avoidance, including $567 million in the fiscal year 2019 budget, to reinvest in readiness, according to the service's top general.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee last week about the savings found throughout the future years defense program in his written statement.

The service recently completed its full financial statement audit for FY-17, which Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Harrison told Inside the Navy in an April 26 statement partially contributed to the identified dollars.

Neller was testifying April 24 to the subcommittee alongside Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson about the Navy's FY-19 budget.

May 1, 2018 at 10:58 AM | Courtney Albon

In an April 30 letter signed by 50 congressional representatives, lawmakers urged the leaders of the House Armed Services Committee and House Appropriations defense subcommittee to support the Air Force's plans to procure 18 KC-46 tankers in 2019.

"As the committees consider annual authorization and appropriations, we respectfully urge you to support the procurement of 18 tankers," the letter states. "The current, aging fleet is in dire need of both new and additional assets, and we ask for your continued strong support for KC-46A tankers in the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Authorization and Appropriations bills."

The program had anticipated delivery of the first 18 tankers in August 2017, but revised that schedule last year to October 2018. After a recent schedule risk assessment, the service now expects the jets to arrive in May 2019.