The Insider

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.

By Jaspreet Gill
March 15, 2021 at 11:18 AM

The Army has deemed the Common Infrared Countermeasure system ready for full-rate production following a successful six-month initial operational test and evaluation phase, Northrop Grumman announced today.

The laser-based system is being developed by the company to protect aircraft from incoming missiles and will replace the Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures system.

The system consists of a pointer-tracker unit, infrared laser and system processor unit and is a part of a suite of infrared countermeasures that include a missile warning system and an Improved Countermeasure Dispenser, according to an Army program document.

“CIRCM’s dual-jammer configuration helps to protect aircrews while providing the highest level of aircraft survivability,” according to a March 15 Northrop Grumman press release. “The CIRCM system provides protection against a wide range of infrared-guided anti-aircraft missile threats, including shoulder-fired and vehicle-launched."

During IOT&E, the system was flown through a multitude of scenarios and environments to assess its ability to detect, engage and defeat threats. The system rapidly defeated all threats, the notice says.

“In addition to baseline performance, the system’s next-generation open architecture design will enable rapid and timely capability enhancements to keep pace with changing mission needs,” according to the notice.

By Tony Bertuca
March 15, 2021 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are scheduled to speak on Capitol Hill this week and executives from several defense companies are slated to make conference presentations.


Aerojet Rocketdyne and CACI International executives are set to present at a J.P. Morgan conference.


The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing with the chief of U.S. Southern Command.

The House Armed Services intelligence and special operations subcommittee holds a hearing on disinformation in the “gray zone.”

Senior Army leaders speak at the Global Force Next Conference hosted by the Association of the United States Army.

The Center for a New American Security hosts a panel discussion on crafting U.S. national technology strategy.

The Foreign Policy Research Center hosts a discussion on the future of the Space Force.

Oshkosh executives are set to participate in a Bank of America conference.

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Leidos, Maxar Technologies and Parsons executives are scheduled to present at the J.P. Morgan conference.


The House Appropriations defense subcommittee holds a hearing on climate change and the Arctic.

The Air Force Association hosts a discussion with the chief of the U.S. Space Command’s combined force space component command.

Leidos executives are slated to participate in the Bank of America conference.


The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee holds a hearing on unmanned systems in the Navy.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion with members of Congress about the future of the Navy.


The House Armed Services readiness subcommittee holds a hearing on investing in the organic industrial base.

The Brookings Institution hosts a discussion on space-based capabilities used during Operation Desert Storm.

By Justin Doubleday
March 12, 2021 at 5:11 PM

The State Department has approved a potential $1.77 billion sale of P-8 aircraft and associated equipment to Germany, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The DSCA formally notified Congress of the approved sale today. Germany has requested five P-8A Patrol Aircraft along with nine Multifunctional Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio Systems 5 and 12 Embedded Global Positioning Systems (GPS)/Inertial Navigations Systems, as well as other equipment and support, according to DSCA.

The prime contractor on the potential deal is Boeing.

By Marjorie Censer
March 12, 2021 at 1:01 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news from the Western Pacific, guidance from the deputy secretary of defense, a delay to a Navy electronic jammer program and more.

The top U.S. commander in the Pacific says China is really building up its military:

INDOPACOM: China to field 200 hypersonic missiles by 2025, also increase aircraft, maritime fleets

China is expected by 2025 to introduce as many as 200 operational hypersonic missiles to its force as part of a sweeping modernization program to challenge U.S. dominance in the Asia-Pacific region that also includes growing the People's Liberation Army's fighter and bomber fleets by 56% and 29% respectively while also ratcheting up the size of its maritime surface combatant fleet.

The Pentagon’s No. 2 official has issued new guidance on how the building will run in the Biden administration:

Hicks sets new 'governance structure' to run Pentagon processes

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks has announced a new "governance structure" by which she will manage and oversee the Pentagon's ongoing reviews and implement guidance from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, according to a new memo.

Our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have news on DOD’s CMMC effort:

DOD CIO's office to evaluate need for potential rule addressing high-level assets in CMMC program

The Defense Department chief information officer is exploring if changes need to be made to the Pentagon's acquisition rules to take into consideration recent National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance for advanced persistent threats and the protection of high-level assets.

The Navy has had to hold off on a production decision for its newest electronic jammer:

Next Generation Jammer Mid Band program delays milestone C decision to late spring

The Navy's Next Generation Jammer Mid Band program, the service's maritime airborne electronic attack modernization effort, has delayed its milestone C decision, which would allow the program to move into its production and development phase.

By Courtney Albon
March 11, 2021 at 4:09 PM

The Air Force announced today it has accepted the first F-15EX from Boeing and expects to receive the second aircraft by the end of April.

The service accepted the first jet on Thursday, which will be delivered to Eglin Air Force Base, FL, for testing. The remaining six aircraft in the first delivery lot are set to be accepted in fiscal year 2023.

In a press release today, the Air Force notes it has adopted an expedited testing plan that relies on data from other F-15 variants as well as U.S.-only subsystems and Operational Flight Program software. Inside Defense reported this week that the Pentagon has waived full-up system level survivability testing for the aircraft, deeming it "unreasonably expensive and impractical."

An alternate test plan, approved by the director of operational test and evaluation, is expected to result in $108 million in cost avoidance and take at least a year less to complete, the service said in its justification for seeking a testing waiver.

The Air Force began executing the alternate Live Fire Test and Evaluation plan in January and expects it to be completed in FY-23.

F-15EX Lots 2 and 3 are "on track" for delivery in FY-24 and FY-25, the press release notes, and will be delivered to Kingsley Field and Portland Air National Guard Base, both located in Oregon.

The Air Force plans to buy at least 144 F-15EX aircraft to replace its older F-15s. The new variant features advanced avionics, a digital cockpit and the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System.

By John Liang
March 11, 2021 at 1:50 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Army's Future Vertical Lift program, armored ground units in a future fight with China, the Air Force's Advanced Battle Management System program and more.

A prototype chain gun under development by Northrop Grumman will specifically be evaluated for the Army's Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft:

Northrop Grumman building new chain gun, loitering munition for Army's FVL program

Northrop Grumman is building a prototype of the Sky Viper, a 20 mm chain gun that could potentially be used by the Army on its Future Vertical Lift aircraft, company officials told reporters yesterday.

Army Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman spoke this week at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

Armored units to have a place in fight against China, general says

Armored units would be essential to the military if there were a war against China, according to the director of the Army's Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.

The Defense Department is looking to connect all sensors and shooters on a shared network through programs like the Advanced Battle Management System so decision-makers and operators can plan and deploy force at internet speeds:

Robins Air Force Base team developing new tactics for JADC2 battle management

A small team at Robins Air Force Base, GA, is working behind the scenes of the military's joint all-domain operations planning and experimentation to come up with new tactics, techniques and procedures that could drastically change the service's approach to battle management.

The House Armed Services Committee's "Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force" aims to develop a 20-page report identifying the levers that are available to pull in the executive branch:

After 'searing' COVID shortfalls, House lawmakers eye foreign dependencies in defense supply chain

A group of House Armed Services Committee members will develop legislative proposals in the coming months to address critical foreign dependencies in the U.S. defense supply chain.

Some cyber defense news from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

Pentagon plans to issue new rule addressing advanced persistent cyber threats

The Defense Department is working on a new rule to establish a cyber regime focused on advanced persistent threats that is expected to add new regulations around levels four and five of the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program.

Defense analysts are forecasting a funding cut for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program:

Top House defense appropriator promises 'serious discussions' on F-35; analysts see campaign to cut

A debate is brewing in Congress and the Pentagon about whether to cut spending on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapon system in U.S. history.

By Marjorie Censer
March 11, 2021 at 11:43 AM

BAE Systems said today it has named Shelly O'Neill Stoneman senior vice president for government relations, effective April 17.

"In her new role, Stoneman will assume responsibility for all government relations activities for the company, overseeing BAE Systems, Inc.'s relationships with members of Congress, the Department of Defense and other Executive branch organizations, as well as state government leaders," the company said.

Stoneman is currently vice president for executive branch and international government relations at BAE.

Before joining the company, she was special assistant to the defense secretary and White House liaison for three defense secretaries under the Obama administration. Stoneman also worked in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs from 2009 to 2011 and earlier in her career worked on Capitol Hill.

She will succeed Frank Ruggiero, who will remain with the company as a legacy fellow for the coming months, BAE said.

By Courtney Albon
March 11, 2021 at 11:08 AM

The Space Development Agency is looking to improve automated target recognition on overhead persistent infrared sensors and is seeking "emerging algorithms" to help recognize high-velocity targets, to include hypersonic glide vehicles and cruise missiles and maneuvering re-entry vehicles.

The Target Recognition and Acquisition in Complex Environments (TRACE) effort is geared toward small businesses, according to a March 10 notice. SDA is interested in technologies to help improve the algorithms its OPIR sensors use to identify and classify targets.

"Dozens of weapon system threats may be launched in a raid," the notice states. "These threats are highly maneuverable and may travel in tight formation at many times the speed of sound. Add a low-contrast and cluttered background and the chance of successful target recognition and acquisition drops significantly."

SDA hopes to integrate the new capability into operational systems within the next four years and notes it is looking for solutions that don't require "unreasonable resource demands on the sensor host platform or supporting systems in terms of computing resources, size, weight and power."

The first phase of the effort will focus on developing a modeling and simulation framework to develop the algorithm and conduct trade space analysis. The second phase involves an advanced development effort to validate and verify the algorithm. A third phase would integrate the algorithm with the payload and data processing software and flight test it, possibly using SDA tracking layer satellites launched as part of Tranche 2 in late 2026.

SDA will accept proposals for TRACE between March 25 and April 27.

By Sara Sirota
March 11, 2021 at 9:17 AM

The Air Force has awarded Raytheon a $178 million firm-fixed-price contract to support the service's Distributed Common Ground System enterprise, according to a contract notice the Defense Department released Wednesday.

"This includes transitional mission support from legacy to open architecture infrastructure as the system completes open architecture modernization," the notice states.

Raytheon will perform the work in Dulles, VA, until March 2026. The Air Force obligated $2.3 million in operation and maintenance funds at the time of the award.

By Sara Sirota
March 11, 2021 at 9:09 AM

The Air Force is planning to test Skyborg, a gateway prototype and other emerging technologies for joint all-domain command and control during an Orange Flag exercise this June, according to a notice the service issued Thursday.

The Air Force's 412th Test Wing hosts Orange Flag events three times each year to focus on technical integration of capabilities at varying technology readiness levels. Most recently, the Air Force combined an Orange Flag exercise with a Black Flag experiment earlier this month to integrate sensors, tactical networks and JADC2 nodes across the military services.

It's unclear if the Air Force will perform the long-awaited first flight test of Skyborg drones during the upcoming the event this June or evaluate the vehicles, autonomy software or other components of the program in another way. The notice also doesn't indicate if the Air Force is planning to integrate the gateway prototype with a Skyborg aircraft.

Boeing, General Atomics and Kratos have contracts with the service to deliver aircraft this spring in preparation for the first flight test this summer. The semi-autonomous vehicles are intended to use artificial intelligence to perform missions and collaborate with manned aircraft nearby.

A communications gateway, meanwhile, is one of the key technologies the Air Force has been experimenting with to ensure seamless information sharing between fighter jets for JADC2 operations. The service has already flown a prototype built by Northrop Grumman on a Kratos-built XQ-58A Valkyrie and is expected to demonstrate the capability on an aerial refueling tanker as well.

By Marjorie Censer
March 10, 2021 at 4:27 PM

The top executives at L3Harris Technologies said today the company plans to continue spending about 4% of its annual sales on research and development "for the foreseeable future."

Speaking at an investor day today, Chris Kubasik, L3Harris' president and chief operating officer, said the contractor is investing in spectrum superiority, actionable intelligence and warfighter effectiveness.

Bill Brown, L3Harris' chief executive, said he does not expect the company to eventually reduce its 4% investment to improve its profit margins.

Additionally, the executives confirmed the company is on track for Kubasik to take over as CEO at the mid-year mark.

However, Brown said that change won't come with a strategy shift.

"Hopefully you noticed over the last 20 months . . . the close partnership Chris and I have developed," he said. "We operate very interchangeably."

Brown said he will continue on for another year as executive chairman.

By Tony Bertuca
March 10, 2021 at 4:05 PM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has established a new climate change working group to coordinate the Pentagon's response to President Biden's executive order designating climate change as a key national security threat.

The working group will be chaired by Joe Bryan, a special assistant to Austin for climate.

"Climate change presents a growing threat to U.S. national security interests and defense objectives," Austin wrote in a memo establishing the group. "The changing climate is altering the global security and operating environments, impacting our missions, plans and installation."

The working group will consist of some of the top officials at DOD, including the under secretary of defense for policy, the USD for acquisition and sustainment, the USD for research and engineering, the military secretaries, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of the National Guard Bureau and the director of cost assessment and program evaluation.

Currently, DOD only has two Senate-confirmed officials in place: Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks. All other senior civilian posts are held by acting officials.

"The working group will consult with Congress on a bipartisan basis and work with interagency partners to ensure our efforts support a whole-of-government approach," Austin wrote. "Whether it is increasing platform efficiency to improve freedom of action in contested logistic environments or deploying new energy solutions to strengthen resilience of key capabilities at installations, our mission objectives are well aligned with our climate goals."

Meanwhile, DOD has included climate change in its ongoing fiscal year 2022 budget review with an eye toward "initial options for investment and set groundwork for additional investments during the FY 2023 to FY 2027 review cycle."

By Jason Sherman
March 10, 2021 at 4:02 PM

Russia is arming naval forces in the Pacific region this year with a new advanced cruise missile that will give its submarines and ships the ability to sink other ships and -- for the first time -- execute long-range strikes against land targets, according to a senior Pentagon official.

Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told Congress in written testimony this week that Russia will begin fielding the Kalibr cruise missile across its Pacific fleet this year -- a weapon that other Pentagon officials have warned could be used to offset U.S. military power-projection advantages and limit U.S. diplomatic options in a crisis.

"We expect the Russian Pacific Fleet will add its first Kalibr cruise missile-capable ships and submarines to its inventory in 2021, giving it substantially increased anti-ship capabilities and the ability to conduct long-range strikes against land targets for the first time," Davidson said.

In a January report, the Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee assessed the range of the ship- and sub-launched variant of the new Russian cruise missile -- the 3M-14 Kalibr -- to be at least 2,500 kilometers.

This kind of capability is prompting North American Aerospace Defense Command to think anew about domestic air defense, advancing the concept for a Strategic Homeland Integrated Ecosystems for Layered Defense (SHIELD).

A recent Congressional Budget Office study, "National Cruise Missile Defense: Issues and Alternatives," examined the threat and determined "a homeland [cruise missile defense] would be feasible but expensive, with costs ranging from roughly $75 billion to $465 billion over 20 years to cover the contiguous United States."

CBO noted that a domestic cruise missile defense umbrella could be overwhelmed by advanced threats like the Kalibr: "A raid consisting of many [land-attack cruise missiles] could overwhelm them. For example, a Yasen-class guided missile submarine in the Russian Navy can reportedly carry up to 32 LACM (3M-14 Kalibr) in its eight vertical launchers."

Davidson said Russia is also modernizing forces in the Pacific region "with air defense and land-based anti-ship cruise missiles, advanced fighters, and upgraded bombers capable of delivering improved and longer-range strikes. These improvements are designed to restrict access to regions of the Pacific Ocean near Russia's coast, while simultaneously expanding Russia's ability to project power across the Region and into the Arctic."