The Insider

By John Liang
October 20, 2011 at 4:56 PM

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is getting credit for developing the voice-recognition technology used on Apple's new iPhone 4S. According to a recent White House Office of Science and Technology Policy blog post:

Apple earlier this month announced that a virtual personal assistant called Siri would be the premier feature of the new iPhone 4S. People will be able to ask Siri to book a table at a nearby restaurant, make an appointment with a friend or colleague or answer a question using the information from multiple search engines and web sites.

Siri is a significant advance in our ability to develop computers that understand and do what we mean. Many experts believe that this technology – which integrates advances in wireless communications, speech recognition, artificial intelligence and smartphones, will transform the way we interact with information technology.

What you may not know is that this technology is a direct outgrowth of a federally funded research project called the “Personalized Assistant that Learns.” This project was backed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the same agency that supported the early research that led to the Internet, GPS and stealth aircraft. DARPA wanted to build “cognitive” computers for the military that can reason, learn from experience, be told what to do, explain what they are doing, and reflect on their experience.

Although a start-up company, venture capitalists and Apple itself had to make significant investments to commercialize Siri, federally funded research played a key role in developing the basic technology. Federal basic research has also contributed to the other components of your smartphone, including the lithium-ion batteries, the hard drive, the memory chips, and the liquid crystal display.

Another emerging DARPA technology, the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) demonstration effort, will undergo a "major program review" next week by an independent assessment team, Inside the Pentagon reports this morning:

DARPA will use an independent government assessment team, structured with Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, to conduct the program review, according to Lockheed's director of advance programs for missiles and fire control, Glenn Kuller.

The agency previously awarded Lockheed two cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts for the development and demonstration of two variants of the LRASM missile, or phase II of the project: $60.3 million for LRASM-A and $157.7 for LRASM-B. LRASM-A is a stealthy air-launched variation of the missile, while LRASM-B is a high-speed ship-launched missile.

The tests next week will involve both LRASM-A and LRASM-B, as well as some of the ram jet components under a Lockheed Martin subcontract with Pratt & Whitney, Kuller said.

"It's a good soup-to-nuts-, nose-to-tail review of the entire program," Kuller said.

By John Liang
October 19, 2011 at 6:55 PM

The Missile Defense Agency needs more Standard Missile-3 Block 1A interceptors.

According to a Federal Business Opportunities notice posted yesterday, Raytheon's missile systems business unit has been awarded a $286 million contract to build 23 additional SM-3 Block 1A missiles. The performance period will last until April 30, 2014, the notice adds.

So far, 81 SM-3 Block 1A interceptors have been delivered, MDA spokesman Rick Lehner told Inside Missile Defense in an email.

The extra 23 missiles are needed because "combatant commands' requirements for SM-3 Block 1A interceptors exceed available assets," according to Lehner.

Yesterday's award increases the system's total contract value from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion, according to the FedBizOpps notice.

Last month, a more-advanced SM-3 Block IB interceptor failed to hit its target in a test off the coast of Hawaii. An agency spokesman told IMD in September that no decisions had yet been made regarding any changes to the test schedule as a result of the failed Sept. 1 intercept attempt.

However, Senate appropriators expect a delay to the SM-3 Block IB acquisition schedule, and aim to tweak the funding line for the system that missed its intended target.

According to the report accompanying the Senate Appropriations Committee's fiscal year 2012 defense-spending bill, "The committee notes that SM-3 missiles are in high demand by combatant commanders around the world, and is concerned that a delay to the SM-3 Block IB's test and acquisition schedule will negatively impact mission capability, shut down the vendor base, and drive up costs of the SM-3 production line." Further, IMD reported:

Consequently, "[n]oting the relative success of the SM-3 Block IB's predecessor, the SM-3 Block IA missile, and its high commonality with the SM-3 Block IB," the panel directs MDA to apply the $565.4 million in the FY-12 budget "requested for the procurement of 46 SM-3 Block IB interceptors to SM-3 Block IA missiles should the test and acquisition schedule for Block IB missiles require any adjustments during fiscal year 2012," the report states. "The committee expects to be fully informed about progress of the SM-3 Block IB missile's test and development schedule and of any changes to its acquisition strategy."

By John Liang
October 19, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Note to style purists: It looks like the term "paveway" with a lowercase "p" is now a generic one for a type of laser-guided bomb.

In a statement issued this morning, Lockheed Martin announced it had won a legal fight against Raytheon, which had filed a trademark claim with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Lockheed submitted an opposition filing in 2005 "in response to Raytheon's request to register the term 'paveway' after Lockheed Martin became a fully qualified supplier of the paveway LGB to the U.S. Air Force, Navy and international customers," according to Lockheed's statement. Further:

"This decision supports Lockheed Martin's goal of delivering competitive, best value solutions to the global market," said Joe Serra, precision guided systems senior manager in Lockheed Martin's Missiles and Fire Control business. "It fully recognizes Lockheed Martin as one of two U.S. Government-qualified sources for paveway II precision guided systems."

The TTAB found that the term has been used in a generic manner by the armament manufacturers, industry press, armament wholesalers and Government purchasers.  The term "paveway" also has been accepted as a generic term in tribunals in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Thailand, and additional cases are pending.

Lockheed Martin began production of paveway II products in 1992 with its laser guided training rounds (LGTR) and followed with paveway II LGB kits and paveway II Dual Mode Laser Guided Bomb (DMLGB) kits for domestic and international customers.  The paveway LGB kits are fully qualified for all three variants of the paveway II MK-80 series of GBU-10, -12 and -16 guidance kits (2,000, 500 and 1,000 lbs, respectively) and have been used successfully in Operation Iraqi Freedom and current overseas contingency operations.

In September 2011, Lockheed Martin received a $100.5 million contract from the U.S. Air Force for production and delivery of the increased precision paveway II Plus LGB GBU-12 guidance kits.  The award represents the majority share of an initial $134 million paveway II Plus LGB procurement, part of an overall $475 million five-year, firm-fixed-price, multiple-award contract announced by the U.S. Air Force on August 1.

As Inside the Air Force reported on that contract in September:

The award accounts for the majority of the initial $134 million Paveway II Plus LGB GBU-12 guidance kits procurement, which is part of a $475 million, five-year, multiple-award contract issued on Aug. 1, according to a Lockheed Martin statement released on Sept. 6. The latest contract provides both hardware and software updates under the indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract, according to Tim O'Donnell, a precision guided systems engineer for Lockheed. Company executives expect to begin delivering the guidance kits in 2012.

The new guidance kits will provide greater accuracy over the legacy Paveway II system, O'Donnell said.

"It is available and ready for use," he said during a Sept. 8 telephone interview with Inside the Air Force. "It is fully compatible with every aircraft and every system that has used the Paveway II legacy system."

The Paveway II plus kits already went through full qualification testing in preparation for the initial $34 million procurement contract Lockheed Martin received last year, O'Donnell said. The company is producing the kits for the Air Force and Navy as part of the contract.

The Air Force completed a force development evaluation program for both the GBU-10 and GBU-12 guidance kits at Eglin Air Force Base, FL, in October 2010. The kits were qualified on both the F-15 Strike Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 18, 2011 at 9:31 PM

On Oct. 21, National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon will travel to Beijing, China for meetings with Chinese leaders and policymakers, including Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo, the White House announced today, noting Donilon will discuss "a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual concern."

Donilon will then head to India for meetings with Indian leaders including National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon. Donilon and Indian leaders will "review recent developments in the U.S.-India strategic partnership, and discuss ways to advance key elements of the relationship, including both countries' participation in the upcoming East Asia Summit," the White House said in a statement.

Donilon's visit "underscores this administration's commitment to growing U.S. leadership in Asia, and our work with emerging powers, such as China and India, as a core component of this commitment," according to the statement. Later this month, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is slated to make his first visit to Asia since taking charge of the Pentagon in July.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 18, 2011 at 7:18 PM

The United States "still has an edge" in cyberspace over other countries such as Russia and China, according to U.S. Strategic Command chief Gen. Robert Kehler. The general did not mention specific countries by name in his comments today, which came in response to a question from a reporter at a breakfast in Washington.

“I would just say this: There are a number of very sophisticated actors who operate in cyberspace. I believe that the United States still has an edge,” he said. Kehler said he cannot describe “how great that edge is,” except that in “some places” it is “quite an edge.” The United States has some “very, very good capabilities – both defensive capabilities and our ability to protect ourselves,” he said. Looking ahead, the question facing U.S. officials is how to invest, train and draw on expertise to retain the edge, Kehler said, noting U.S. Cyber Command needs more highly specialized personnel.

As defense officials continue working on the legal framework and doctrine for operating in cyberspace, they are considering whether “active defense” amounts to offense in cyberspace, Kehler said, adding he believes the answer to that question is no. He said such defense is analogous to actions a Navy captain might take to protect a ship at sea.

By Jen Judson
October 18, 2011 at 6:12 PM

Agence France Presse is making waves with a story today about the Army's $4.9 million purchase of Switchblade agile munitions:

A miniature "kamikaze" drone designed to quietly hover in the sky before dive-bombing and slamming into a human target will soon be part of the US Army's arsenal, officials say.

Dubbed the "Switchblade," the robotic aircraft represents the latest attempt by the United States to refine how it takes out suspected militants.

Inside the Army reported this purchase in a story on Sept. 2:

The Army continues to procure small, unmanned systems. The service signed a $4.9 million contract for the Switchblade agile munition, according to a Sept. 1 AeroVironment statement. The award is for rapid fielding to deployed combat forces.

The Switchblade is launched from a small, man-portable tube. After the aircraft is fired out of the tube, its wings pop open, its propeller starts spinning and it can transmit live video feed. The system can feature a "loitering aerial munition" with a high-explosive charge, "so that in the event somebody finds somebody, a sniper shooting at them, they could actually use the Switchblade to neutralize that sniper without having to wait for an F-16 to drop a 500-pound bomb on the building or a Predator or a Hellfire missile or what have you," Gitlin said.

Inside the Army had more on Switchblade before that announcement:

As part of the company's strategy to "look at white space in the market," Gitlin said AeroVironment is working on other programs that could fulfill service needs. One system it calls Switchblade is a man-portable unmanned aircraft system launched out of a tube similar to a mortar system's, but "much smaller," Gitlin said. After the aircraft is fired out of the tube, its wings pop open and its propeller starts spinning. It is battery-powered and uses the same ground control station as Puma, Raven and Wasp, he said.

In addition to a video transmittal and sensor capabilities, one version of the Switchblade will be a "loitering aerial munition" carrying a high-explosive charge, "so that in the event somebody finds somebody, a sniper shooting at them, they could actually use the Switchblade to neutralize that sniper without having to wait for an F-16 to drop a 500-pound bomb on the building or a Predator or a Hellfire missile or what have you," Gitlin said. "The utility is small, easy to use and helps to close that kill-chain very quickly without the delays normally associated."

By John Liang
October 17, 2011 at 7:48 PM

Lockheed Martin recently completed early delivery of intra-fire unit communications kits designed for use with the Medium Extended Air Defense System, according to a company statement issued this afternoon:

This tactical hardware for the MEADS Internal Communications Subsystem (MICS) will support integration, test and qualification of MEADS elements.

MICS provides secure communications between the MEADS sensors, launchers and battle managers across a high-speed internet protocol network. Through a capability called "plug-and-fight," sensors, shooters or other battle managers act as nodes on the network. From the MEADS battle manager, a commander can add or subtract nodes as the situation dictates without shutting down the system. With MICS, these MEADS elements can be positioned for maximum lethality and survivability while maintaining clear, rapid and efficient communication.

"Our technology helps the warfighter maintain situational awareness and combat superiority," said Rich Russell, director of sensors, data links and advanced programs in Lockheed Martin's Missiles and Fire Control business. "With MICS, ground units can exchange command, control and status data over a secure network."

MICS provides plug-and-fight technology for streamlined data exchange. MICS software minimizes the need for an individual to manage the network because it dynamically reconfigures as weapon system end items enter and exit. It also autonomously routes network traffic past anything that might slow it down or stop it.

Inside the Army reports this week that the service is still internally debating the logic to transfer to the Missile Defense Agency some aspects of the Army's missile defense programs, including aspects of the Patriot system.

Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, Army programs deputy chief of staff, said at an industry symposium this month that there are a number of reasons to transfer the programs, ITA reports:

"There is one program in the entire Department of Defense that does ballistic missile defense that was not part of the MDA and that is our Patriot system," Lennox said. Over the last 10 years, he said, the Army has not been able to invest in the Patriot system at the level it should have. Instead, he added, the Army has been investing in the Medium Extended Air Defense System.

MEADS is a trinational program with Italy and Germany, which the Army says it won't fund beyond a two-year research and development phase. The Army would then harvest the technology garnered from that phase.

By transferring aspects of the Patriot program, Lennox said, it could leverage the work the MDA is doing, the agency's buying power and its research and development arm. "That is the primary reason we see a benefit," he said.

Lennox said splitting funds between the Army and the MDA is a major undertaking. "Once that is resolved," he said, "we will go to the Department of Defense and ask their approval and then we know we have to go to Congress for their approval."

The MOA outlines the transfer of Army ballistic missile defense program responsibilities to MDA and lays out an implementation plan for the Army's program executive office for missiles and space to also serve as the program executive for Army BMD systems within MDA.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 17, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today he is "very concerned" about reports that surface-to-air missiles from Libya are being smuggled into Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The department is looking into the matter, he told reporters during an honor cordon to with Italian defense minister Ignazio La Russa. The Washington Post reported Oct. 12 on the smuggling.

La Russa said Italy is also facing defense budget cuts; he said the efficiency of the Italian military must not be reduced, noting the size could be cut but no particular reductions in size are on the table.

By John Liang
October 14, 2011 at 8:56 PM

Rep. John Garamendi's office has put together a chart showing the varying estimates of the costs of reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal put out by a variety of sources -- among them Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the Center for American Progress, the Sustainable Defense Task Force, the CATO Institute and the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

A Garamendi spokesman tells that the congressman "does not necessarily endorse any specific proposal in this chart. This content is for information purposes only."

Garamendi's office developed the chart in the wake of some lawmakers' wanting to make drastic funding cuts to nuclear weapons programs. In an Oct. 11 letter to the bipartisan supercommittee charged with cutting billions of dollars in government spending, 64 House Democrats called on the panel to "cut $20 billion a year, or $200 billion over the next 10 years, from the U.S. nuclear weapons budget."

In response, House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-OH) said during a full committee hearing yesterday:

Cuts that are currently pending before Congress to our nuclear deterrent could affect both that credibility and its reliability. At a time where China and Russia are investing in their nuclear weapons infrastructure, we're looking at proposed cuts that would create vulnerability and instability.

By Jordana Mishory
October 14, 2011 at 8:21 PM

The head of the Senate defense authorization panel is rejecting further discretionary cuts to the Defense Department's budget, but supporting proposals to reform the military retirement and health care systems.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) is formally joining the chorus of lawmakers and defense officials claiming that the Pentagon's budgets should be left alone by the 12-lawmaker debt reduction supercommittee in its quest to find $1.5 trillion in savings over the next decade. “I am unable to recommend further discretionary cuts to DOD's budget as part of the Joint Select Committee's deficit-reduction proposal, particularly prior to the completion of the strategy-driven review currently being conducted by DOD,” Levin writes in a letter sent today to the supercommittee.

He notes that DOD faces the task of finding $450 billion in savings over the next 10 years “in the midst of multiple wars.”

However, Levin says he would support recommendations to reform the military retirement system and revise the TRICARE health benefit that could come out of an Obama-proposed commission. The president's proposals should be modified slightly, Levin writes. He also calls for expanding the scope of the commission to include all aspects of military compensation.

Today, the House Armed Services Committee also sent a letter to the supercommittee calling for no defense cuts.

If the supercommittee is unable to find at least $1.2 trillion in savings, it triggers a sequestration mechanism, which would cut DOD's budget by nearly $600 billion. Levin called this possibility “disastrous.”

By Dan Dupont
October 14, 2011 at 7:17 PM

The White House today announced plans to send about 100 troops to Africa as part of an effort to support allies battling Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army. first reported U.S. Africa Command's plans to provide security assistance for this effort in late July.

U.S. Africa Command is set to begin a new security assistance program in East Africa that aims to bolster the ability of Uganda's military to fight the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group that for more than 20 years has terrorized civilians.

Congress has lifted a hold it placed earlier this month on a Defense Department proposal to begin a new program to provide Ugandan defense forces with counterterrorism training and equipment, according to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory.

The project, part of a second batch of so-called Section 1206 security assistance programs drawn up by the Defense and State departments, is designed to "provide communications and intelligence training as well as communications and engineering equipment to improve Uganda's ability to remove LRA leadership and fighters from the battlefield," according to Gregory. The project has a price tag of $4.4 million, he said.

By John Liang
October 14, 2011 at 6:14 PM

The National Reconnaissance Office, the Air Force and NASA have signed an agreement to establish clear criteria for certification of commercial providers of launch vehicles used for National Security Space and civil missions, according to an NRO statement issued this afternoon:

The U.S. government is committed to procuring commercial launch services for its satellite and robotic missions, including Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV, launches. The new entrant launch vehicle certification strategy is the latest step in a cooperative effort by the Air Force, NASA and NRO to take advantage of new launch capability for the three agencies' missions.

The agencies previously signed a Letter of Intent in October 2010, signaling their collaboration on launch requirements, and a Memorandum of Understanding in March, which outlined their plans for future EELV-class launch vehicle acquisition, including the need for a coordinated strategy for certification of new entrant launch systems.

The basis of the new strategy comes from NASA's existing policy directive for launch vehicle risk mitigation. It also recognizes mission-unique requirements from each of the three agencies may result in different certification approaches to mitigate launch risk. The document provides a common framework and language among the agencies for communicating expectations to new launch service providers.

The risk-based certification framework allows the agencies to consider both the cost and risk tolerance of the payload and their confidence in the launch vehicle. For payloads with higher risk tolerance, the agencies may consider use of launch vehicles with a higher risk category rating and provide an opportunity for new commercial providers to gain experience launching government payloads.

Within a given risk category rating, if new entrants have launch vehicles that have a more robust demonstrated successful flight history, then the government may require less technical evaluation for non-recurring certification of the new launch system. This new strategy further enables competition from emerging, commercially-developed launch capabilities for future Air Force, NASA, and NRO missions.

(UPDATE 4:30 p.m.: Click here to view the text of the agreement.)

See below for some of's coverage of related NASA, Air Force and NRO issues:

Bolden: Air Force, NASA Space Policy MOU Will Help Enable Modernization

Making upgrades to the launch systems used by the Air Force and NASA is a top priority now that the two bodies have signed a memorandum of understanding outlining plans for developing a joint space-launch operating policy, according to a top NASA official.

Air Force, NASA Space Policy MOU Will Not Change Launch Schedule

Air Force officials believe that a recent memorandum of understanding outlining plans to work with NASA to develop a joint space-launch operating policy will not cause any immediate changes to the service's planned launch schedule, according a service spokeswoman.

Carlson: Delta IV Heavy-Lift Capability Expensive; NRO Considering Alternatives

National Reconnaissance Office officials believe the Delta IV heavy-lift capability for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program is expensive, the agency's director says, and are open to considering other options to satisfy the launch requirement the Delta IV is slated to fill.

By Jordana Mishory
October 13, 2011 at 6:58 PM

The House Armed Services Committee plans to send a letter to the supercommittee tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in savings urging the panel to leave the defense budget intact. The letter reiterates the committee's position that any more cuts to the Defense Department would seriously and irreparably impact U.S. national security.

“We believe that additional reductions in the base budget of the Department of Defense (DOD) will compound deep reductions Congress has already imposed and critically compromise national security,” states the letter, signed by committee chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA).

During a press conference today with 10 other committee members, McKeon said almost all Republicans on the authorization committee had signed the letter, which is still being circulated. A distributed version of the letter has Friday's date on it.

The Budget Control Act of 2011, which formed the supercommittee, called for all congressional committees to submit recommendations to the panel by Friday.

Earlier today, the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), released a supplemental letter stating that further DOD cuts could undermine national security. However, Smith also called for the supercommittee to include “significant revenue increases.”

McKeon said he and his colleagues are opposed to tax increases. Last month, McKeon said at an American Enterprise Institute event that he would rather raise taxes than allow further defense cuts. Today, McKeon said that he believes that's a “false choice.”

“I want to work night and day to make sure we don't have that choice,” McKeon said.

If the supercommittee fails to find at least $1.2 trillion in savings, it triggers a sequestration measure, which would take half of those cuts from the Defense Department. If that happens, McKeon said, "it's all over.”

House authorizers are working to make sure the supercommittee understands the importance of preserving the Pentagon's spending, McKeon said. He recently spoke with Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), who is co-chairing the supercommittee. McKeon added that Congress has already stripped nearly $469 billion out of defense coffers over the next decade and should not go any further.

“I personally, and I think many members of the committee, feel that we've gone overboard on the cuts,” McKeon said. “We have made the cuts. Now it's up to the supercommittee to find the rest of the $1.2 trillion out of the other side, the entitlements.”

By Jordana Mishory
October 13, 2011 at 4:24 PM

The House Armed Services Committee's top Democrat is calling for the debt reduction supercommittee to include “significant revenue increases” in its plans to find nearly $1.5 trillion in savings.

In an Oct. 12 letter sent to the 12-member panel, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) states that further reductions to the Defense Department could undermine national security. Instead, the committee should propose legislation that “embraces revenue increases and that avoids precipitous cuts to programs essential to growth -- the engine of our national security," he writes.

“I ask the Joint Select Committee to refrain from making any deficit reduction recommendations that might prematurely force the DOD to make what may prove to be precarious strategic adjustments as a result of additional budgetary constraints,” Smith writes in his letter, which supplements the House authorization committee's recommendations on where to find spending cuts.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 required all committees to submit recommendations by Friday. The House Armed Services Committee plans to hold a press conference at 1 p.m. today to discuss its recommendations. Committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) has gone on record, along with his colleagues, to state that DOD's budget should not be cut further. During a speech last month, McKeon said that, if forced to choose, he would vote to raise taxes rather than further cut DOD's budget.

The supercommittee must finalize its bill before Thanksgiving. If it fails to find $1.2 billion in savings, it triggers a sequestration measure to find those savings -- half of which must come from DOD's coffers.

By Christopher J. Castelli
October 13, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today the Pentagon would accelerate its plans to be ready for a full budget audit from 2017 to 2014. The Defense Department has made “significant progress” toward meeting the congressional deadline for audit-ready financial statements by 2017, he said, focusing first on improving the categories of information that are most relevant to managing the budget, but it must do better.

“Today I am announcing that I have directed the Department to cut in half the time it will take to achieve audit readiness for the Statement of Budgetary Resources, so that by 2014 we will have the ability to conduct a full budget audit,” he said. “This focused approach prioritizes the information that we use in managing the department, and will give our financial managers the key tools they need to track spending, identify waste, and improve the way the Pentagon does business as soon as possible.”

He said he has directed the DOD Comptroller “to revise the current plan within 60 days to meet these new goals, and still achieve the requirement of overall audit readiness by 2017.” This plan will move the department closer to fulfilling its responsibility to be transparent and accountable for how its spend taxpayer dollars, he said.