The Insider

By Tony Bertuca
September 22, 2020 at 12:28 PM

A senior Pentagon official told lawmakers today the Trump administration has begun planning for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 2021.

The Defense Department is "conducting prudent planning to withdraw to zero service members by May 2021 if conditions warrant and the Taliban have met their commitments, per the U.S.-Taliban agreement," David Helvey, who is performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, told the House Oversight and Reform national security subcommittee today.

By November, DOD plans to reduce U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 8,600 to between 4,000 and 5,000. Helvey stressed that DOD has not yet issued orders to reduce military personnel below that level.

"We remain firmly committed to our counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan as well as to our Afghan partners," Helvey said.

Still, U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad told the subcommittee that levels of violence in Afghanistan remain unacceptable and have contributed to halting ongoing peace talks with the Taliban.

"By any measure, current levels of violence are too high," he said.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), who chairs the subcommittee, said the United States must remain "clear-eyed about the stakes of the moment."

"If the Taliban are unwilling or unable to abide by their commitments, or if political negotiations collapse, the resulting crisis would likely have grave consequences for the Afghan people, regional stability, and international security," he said. "While we are all eager for our sons and daughters in uniform to return home, it is also important that we do not needlessly or recklessly bargain away the rights and freedoms that the Afghan people have gained at such a huge cost in American, Coalition, and Afghan lives."

America's war in Afghanistan began in October 2001 and has cost the lives of more than 2,300 U.S. troops.

President Trump has long voiced his desire to stop the "endless" war in Afghanistan and withdraw the United States from other Middle East conflicts and has made it part of his campaign for re-election.

But Trump's plan has been criticized by retired military leaders, including his former national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.

"Well, I think what he did with this new policy, is he, in effect, is partnering with the Taliban against, in many ways, the Afghan government," McMaster said during a 60 Minutes interview. "And so, I think that it's an unwise policy. And I think what we require in Afghanistan is a sustained commitment to help the Afghan government and help the Afghan security forces continue to bear the brunt of this fight."

Trump reiterated his position in an interview with Axios last month.

"I’ve always said we will get largely out," he said. "I've done things that no other president has done. We should have never been in the Middle East. To get into the Middle East was the single biggest mistake made in the history of our country."

By Jaspreet Gill
September 22, 2020 at 12:22 PM

The Defense Department is inviting industry to a virtual open house Oct. 30 focusing on counter-small unmanned aircraft systems, according to a notice posted today.

The event will be hosted by the Army-led Joint C-sUAS Office and the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office and will outline DOD’s approach to C-sUAS. The open house will also cover operational capability requirements, current capabilities, strategy and training aspects.

"The C-sUAS industry open house will provide information regarding emerging requirements, address the multitude of C-sUAS challenges, and encourage competition and efficiencies in future technology development and procurement activities," the notice states.

Prior to the virtual event, DOD "expects to validate the operational capability requirements for C-sUAS as well as finalize its C-sUAS strategy and Industry Engagement Plan, which together will serve as the basis for providing a path ahead for innovation opportunities, evaluation and industry demonstration," according to the notice.

Pre-selected questions will be answered during the event. Industry should submit questions by Oct. 2.

By Courtney Albon
September 22, 2020 at 11:46 AM

The Space Force and NASA signed a memorandum of understanding this week reaffirming their partnership and committing to continued collaboration in space launch, operations and research.

NASA and the Defense Department have a history of collaboration and have maintained similar agreements prior to the creation of the Space Force. The document notes that while historical areas for cooperation have included launch and range safety, space communications and space situational awareness -- among others -- new opportunities for partnership will likely arise.

"As NASA's human presence extends beyond the [International Space Station] to the lunar surface, cislunar and interplanetary destinations, and as USSF organizes, trains and equips to provide resources necessary to protect and defend vital U.S. interests in and beyond Earth-orbit, new collaborations will be key to operating safely and securely on these distant frontiers," the MOU states.

Among those opportunities for further collaboration, the MOU highlights both agencies' need for additional space domain awareness capabilities and the possibility for sharing technology and data as each develops its own future architecture.

"Both parties are at current capability limits for extending SDA beyond geosynchronous orbit and addressing the need for Near Earth Orbit detection and tracking," the MOU states. "However, there is considerable overlap between the technologies required to enable NEO detection and for SDA beyond geosynchronous orbit, such as the USSF Space Surveillance Telescope."

It continues: "The parties will most effectively achieve their respective goals through collaboration in a strategic and proactive manner as each establishes its own mission architectures."

The MOU highlights several other areas for future partnership, including: capabilities and practices that enable safe near-Earth and cislunar operations; search, rescue and recovery for human space flight; launch support; space logistics and supply support; ride shares and hosted payloads; and interoperable spacecraft communications networks.

By John Liang
September 21, 2020 at 2:03 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a stopgap continuing resolution slated for release today, plus coverage of the F-22 program and more.

With lawmakers not coming to agreement on a fiscal year 2021 spending package, a continuing resolution would fund the federal government until Dec. 11, thus averting a shutdown on Oct. 1:

House would grant CR exemption for Columbia-class submarine

House Democrats have crafted a stopgap spending measure that allows the Pentagon an exemption from normal restrictions so it can award contracts for the Navy's first two Columbia-class submarines.

The first release of the F-22 program's capability pipeline modernization effort has been delayed from the end of 2020 to September 2021:

F-22 Capability Pipeline delay to increase program costs by about $90 million

The F-22 program office estimates it incurred about $90 million in cost growth following an 11-month schedule slip to the first release of the program's capability pipeline modernization effort.

The Air Force recently executed a new indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for development, integration, retrofit and production activities for all C-130J variants -- a package the Air Force has dubbed the C-130J Combined Aircraft Delivery, Development, Integration & Engineering, or CADDIE contract:

Potential $15 billion C-130J contract sets stage for modernization, significant procurement

The Air Force has tapped Lockheed Martin to exercise a project using a new contract vehicle potentially worth $15 billion for continued development and procurement of C-130J aircraft -- a five-year deal with options to buy as many as 120 aircraft that, if fully exercised, could dwarf the most recent multiyear procurement deals for the U.S. military's intra-theater lift workhorse fleet.

The Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle request for proposals has been updated:

Army updates draft RFP for Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle

The Army has updated its draft request for proposals for the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, deleting a provision that would have allowed a service organization to submit a proposal.

Members of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence testified on Capitol Hill last week:

Commission tells lawmakers the Pentagon needs more 'top-down' leadership on AI, emerging technologies

Members of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence are advocating for the Pentagon's top leaders to be more involved in the military's approach to AI and emerging technologies, including through the creation of a new senior-level steering committee.

Document: NSCAI commissioners' joint testimony

By Justin Katz
September 21, 2020 at 1:11 PM

A new panel focused on the defense industrial base and chaired by two senior Navy officials is now in motion, according to a service spokesman.

The Navy secretary last month created the Defense Industrial Base Executive Steering Committee. "The DIB-ESC was established to address issues that jeopardize the security of the Department of the Navy (DON) data handled by defense contractors working on sensitive naval technology," according to an Aug. 6 memorandum published on a Navy website last week.

Navy acquisition executive Hondo Geurts and Chief Information Officer Aaron Weis co-chair the committee.

"Meetings and engagements are taking place. Now with this charter, the team is in the process of formalizing a battle rhythm to get the committee in motion," Capt. Danny Hernandez, Geurts' spokesman, told Inside Defense in a statement last week.

The committee has 10 voting members including senior civilians and uniformed officials such as the deputy secretaries for sustainment and security, the chief uniformed officers directing warfighting requirements as well as representatives from U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command.

"The mission of the DIB-ESC is to reduce the DON's risk of exposure from unauthorized disclosure of unclassified information stored on DIB networks," according to the memo. "The DIB-ESC will leverage existing DON tools to accomplish this mission, including changes to people, processes, technology, and organizational structure."

By Marjorie Censer
September 21, 2020 at 11:36 AM

The ongoing pandemic, which has dampened commercial air travel, means defense work will make up about two-thirds of Raytheon Technologies' sales this year, rather than about half as initially predicted, according to the company's chief executive.

Greg Hayes spoke last week at a Morgan Stanley conference. While conference organizers indicated the event was not open to the media, it was shared on Raytheon's website and a transcript was made publicly available.

Hayes called the company's defense work "a bright spot in the business."

The "defense businesses will generate about two-thirds of our sales this year; one-third will be commercial aero," he said. "That's a little different than the balance we had originally thought, which was going to be somewhere around 50-50 or maybe 55-45 with defense in the lead."

"With peace breaking out in the Middle East to some extent -- or at least a normalization of relations -- we see opportunities on the international side to provide our partners over there with some of the same technology that we've been providing to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel," Hayes continued.

Meanwhile, Hayes told the audience the company is focused on cutting its footprint to reduce costs.

"The longer-term savings really are around footprint," he said. "We've got about 31 million square feet of office space at RTX. Obviously today we're not utilizing very much of it."

"Our goal initially was to reduce that by about 10% -- or 3 million square feet" -- through consolidation and lease exits, Hayes added. "I think we can see maybe a 20% or 25% reduction in office footprint long term. By long term, I mean over the next four to five years as we exit leases and move folks around to lower-cost locations."

By Justin Doubleday
September 21, 2020 at 11:09 AM

The Pentagon is considering owning and operating its own fifth-generation wireless networks to support its domestic operations under a new dynamic spectrum-sharing effort.

In a Sept. 18 request for information, the Defense Department asks for responses on "innovative solutions and alternative approaches to enable [dynamic spectrum sharing] within the department's currently allocated spectrum with the goal of accelerating spectrum-sharing decisions and 5G deployment."

"We hope our industry partners will come forward with innovative ideas to address the questions in this RFI," DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said as part of a prepared DOD statement. "DOD's partnership with industry is imperative in this extremely technical and competitive field. What we learn in this effort has potential to benefit the entire nation and keep the U.S. as the global leader of 5G technology for many years to come."

Among the questions DOD asks as part of the notice: "How could DOD own and operate 5G networks for its domestic operations? What are the potential issues with DOD owning and operating independent networks for its 5G operations?"

The Pentagon is already working with mobile networking companies through its 5G prototyping program. The pending prototypes include spectrum sharing, smart warehouses, augmented reality training and other 5G use cases.

This summer, the White House and the Pentagon announced DOD was open to sharing spectrum between 3.45 to 3.55 GHZ, a band previously reserved for exclusive military use. The new RFI shows the Pentagon is open to sharing further spectrum sections.

"While the Department has made available the 3450-3550MHz spectrum band for 5G, are there new technologies or innovative methods as to how additional mid-band spectrum currently allocated to DOD can be made available for 5G faster?" the RFI poses.

DOD is seeking responses to the notice by Oct. 19.

Meanwhile, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX) lauded the new spectrum sharing effort, but said he is also worried DOD is not moving fast enough to free up spectrum resources for 5G deployments.

"I am pleased to see that the Department is willing to explore ways to share the valuable mid-band spectrum that is so critical for our economy, our security, and our nation's future," Thornberry said in a Sept. 19 statement. "I am concerned, however, that DOD is still not moving at the appropriate speed given the on-going efforts by China and others. We must move out faster."

By Tony Bertuca
September 21, 2020 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill this week and to speak at a think tank conference. Meanwhile, Congress is expected to debate the terms for a stopgap continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded past Sept. 30.

Monday

New America hosts its virtual Future Security Forum.

Tuesday

The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee holds a hearing on modernization of the Army's conventional munitions industrial base.

Wednesday

The House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on the role of U.S. allies and partners.

Friday

The Brookings Institute hosts a discussion with chairs of the House Armed Services Committee's Future of Defense Task Force.

By Courtney Albon
September 18, 2020 at 5:15 PM

The Space Force this week awarded Northrop Grumman a sole-source $298 million contract for the rapid prototyping phase of its Evolved Strategic Satellite Communications program.

The work is expected to be complete by May 2025, and the service obligated about $31 million at the time of the award.

Northrop said in a Sept. 17 press release the company would develop a "modernized strategic communications space segment with enhanced resilience and cybersecurity capabilities."

The Space Force intends for ESS to initially integrate with and ultimately replace the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program, which Lockheed Martin developed with Northrop as its communications payload provider. The Space Force is using Mid-Tier Acquisition authorities to streamline the effort.

"ESS is critical to extending our nation's secure satellite communications infrastructure, as it will provide strategic users with assured, uninterruptable connectivity without fear of discovery anywhere on the globe," the company said.

The service plans to award multiple ESS rapid prototyping contracts and is in the midst of developing a strategy for its future SATCOM architecture.

By Sara Sirota
September 18, 2020 at 2:38 PM

The Air Force has awarded General Atomics an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract that enables the service and its foreign military sale partners to purchase up to 36 MQ-9 Reapers annually over the next five years.

The "Agile Reaper Enterprise Solution" deal is worth up to $7.4 billion and intended to stabilize costs and reduce the delivery schedule by about 35% via a streamlined contracting process, the Air Force confirmed Thursday.

ARES has a pre-negotiated $3.3 billion price-quantity-curve, allowing the service and FMS customers to unilaterally order between four and 36 unmanned aerial systems in a single fiscal year. Foreign partners are permitted to buy the Dash 21 variant, a NATO exportable version of the MQ-9A.

"Prior to ARES, the standard contract award timeline was roughly 380 days," Alicia Morales, aircraft production manager with the Air Force's medium altitude UAS program office, said in the Sept. 17 notice. "Now, once we have a budget, and it's in our account, we can award in just a couple of days and field the aircraft in 26 months."

The contract follows the service's decision earlier this year to stop buying new Reapers after FY-20 -- a move lawmakers have largely opposed. Air Force Materiel Command did not immediately respond to questions about whether the MQ-9 program office is now looking to reverse its course.

The contract also follows the Trump administration's decision in July to alter the government's policy on how it interprets UAS export restrictions under the Missile Technology Control Regime.

The policy is intended to open the door to more international sales of large aircraft like the Reaper, though it's unclear if the latest contract with General Atomics enables transfers to non-NATO partners -- an opportunity defense export advocates are seeking.

It's also unclear if the Air Force has signed any letters of agreement with foreign militaries that would leverage the new deal.

By John Liang
September 18, 2020 at 2:00 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on artificial intelligence, Army Futures Command's new "Software Factory," nuclear modernization funding and more.

Members of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence testified on Capitol Hill this week:

Commission tells lawmakers the Pentagon needs more 'top-down' leadership on AI, emerging technologies

Members of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence are advocating for the Pentagon's top leaders to be more involved in the military's approach to AI and emerging technologies, including through the creation of a new senior-level steering committee.

Document: NSCAI commissioners' joint testimony

Army Futures Command's new "Software Factory" will leverage a train-with-industry pipeline to address problems across the service with modern software practices:

AFC selects home for Software Factory

Army Futures Command has chosen Austin Community College District in Texas as the home for its new Software Factory, the service announced today.

The Pentagon's top civilian, in a Sept. 11 letter to the House and Senate Armed Services committees, said he had "strong concerns" with provisions in the House's fiscal year 2021 defense authorization and appropriations bills that, in his view, put the Pentagon nuclear modernization program at "unacceptable risk":

Pentagon sees 'unacceptable risk' in House nuclear provisions

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord say they oppose House legislation that would reduce spending on nuclear weapons and re-structure the way the arsenal is funded.

The White House Office of Management and Budget is asking the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee to scrap legislation that would establish a new project to modernize the existing Ground-based Interceptor fleet:

White House urges Senate authorization panel to reverse four missile defense provisions

The Trump administration is balking at four missile defense provisions advanced by the Senate Armed Services Committee's mark of the fiscal year 2021 defense authorization bill, asking lawmakers to reconsider a funding cut and increase to the Next Generation Interceptor and Homeland Defense Radar-Hawaii programs, respectively.

The Air National Guard's "Ghost Reaper" initiative would have advanced networking and intelligence technologies -- and even achieve open-mission standards -- that the ANG's MQ-9 team hopes will prove the shift to data-centric warfare doesn't require abandoning legacy platforms:

ANG's 'Ghost Reaper' aims to transform hunter-killer RPA for JADC2 operations

The Air National Guard's MQ-9 enterprise has been quietly fighting under the radar to show the remotely piloted aircraft has utility in future operations by transforming its hunter-killer counterinsurgency capabilities to better enable joint all-domain command and control under a little-known initiative called the "Ghost Reaper," multiple sources tell Inside Defense.

By Sara Sirota
September 18, 2020 at 1:56 PM

The HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter program has begun on-the-ground, live-fire tests with the Sikorsky-built aircraft’s three primary guns, the Air Force revealed earlier this week.

The CRH is intended to replace the HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet as the Air Force’s primary search-and-rescue platform. The program is currently moving to complete formal developmental testing in December and start initial operational test and evaluation next spring with initial deliveries from the first production lot slated for next May.

The three-week live-fire test phase began Aug. 17 and took place at Eglin Air Force Base, FL, according to an Air Force news release. Airmen from the 413th Flight Test Squadron used the first HH-60W Sikorsky built -- called Whiskey 1 -- to evaluate the helicopter’s weapons.

“The helicopter’s guns can rotate independently providing an almost 360-degree firing arc,” the Air Force notice states. “This created a unique challenge for the squadron’s engineers to develop test and safety plans not typically encountered with fixed wing aircraft.”

More evaluations are expected to follow. An Air Force safety board will now assess data collected during the recent ground tests to authorize the CRH for live-fire flight testing, which is scheduled to occur later in 2020.

By John Liang
September 17, 2020 at 4:50 PM

Science Applications International Corp. announced today the company will reorganize its business units.

Effective Oct. 31, the start of SAIC's fourth quarter, the company will operate with two major lines of business: defense and civilian led by Bob Genter, and national security and space led by Michael LaRouche, according to an SAIC statement.

"This structure will enable SAIC to accelerate strategic growth priorities in areas such as digital engineering, digital transformation, and space," the statement reads.

The reorganization stems from the planned retirement of Jim Scanlon, who leads the defense systems group.

"With Jim's retirement, we reevaluated our organizational structure, as we always look to best align with our business strategy and growth priorities," Nazzic Keene, SAIC's chief executive, said in the statement.

Scanlon will remain with the company until Jan. 29 "to support a smooth transition to the new organization structure," the company said.

By John Liang
September 17, 2020 at 1:35 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Air Force's KC-46 tanker aircraft, plus the recent findings of an Air Force Scientific Advisory Board study group, the Navy's Aegis combat system and more.

Mike Hafer, senior manager of KC-46 business development at Boeing, spoke to reporters this week about the first block of Pegasus Combat Capability, or PC2, upgrades to the Air Force's airborne refueling aircraft:

Boeing anticipates KC-46 Block 1 mod contract in 2021 as program works toward new RVS

Boeing expects to be on contract for the first block of KC-46 modernization work by the first quarter of 2021 -- the first phase of a 10-year, $5.7 billion post-production contract the Air Force awarded the company last year.

An Air Force Scientific Advisory Board study group earlier this week presented findings on best practices for selection and management of future vanguard programs:

Air Force to invest $100 million in transformational vanguard programs in FY-24

The Air Force is eyeing an investment of about $100 million in its vanguard programs -- which strive to accelerate transformational capabilities to the battlefield -- in fiscal year 2024 to meet the demands of the service's 2030 Science and Technology Strategy.

Inside Defense recently interviewed Navy Capt. Andrew Biehn, program manager for the Aegis Integrated Combat System:

Navy's 'Forge' prototype will try to rapidly update Aegis combat system software throughout fleet

The Navy is moving forward with an experiment to rapidly develop, test and distribute software upgrades to the fleet's Aegis combat system by establishing a "software factory" prototype for surface combatants.

A new controlled unclassified information guidebook will build off DOD Instruction 5240.48 issued by the office of the under secretary of defense for intelligence and security in March:

Pentagon acquisition office to develop guidebook for industry on controlled unclassified information

The Defense Department is working on a guide to help industry and the acquisition community understand how to handle controlled unclassified information, addressing a foundational component of the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program.

Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification Accreditation Body leaders Ty Schieber and Mark Berman are leaving the board of directors, marking a significant change in leadership as the accreditation body enters a new stage of training and assessments:

NDIA questions expected timeline of Pentagon cyber certification program, intent of potential sponsorships for assessors, consultants

Recent developments at the independent authority overseeing accreditation of assessors for the Pentagon's cyber certification program are raising concerns at one of the nation's largest defense associations, which represents a wide variety of contractors who make up the defense industrial base.

By John Liang
September 16, 2020 at 3:32 PM

Lockheed Martin Ventures has invested in Hidden Level, a Syracuse, NY-based company that designs and develops sensors for low-altitude airspace monitoring.

Hidden Level released a statement saying the investment "will support both companies as they look to solve challenges in air surveillance and security through advanced distributed sensor networks."

Jeff Cole, Hidden Level's CEO, said that "providing scalable solutions to low altitude airspace security remains an issue in defense and commercial spaces. Our mission is to deliver innovative solutions to help our customers keep the public safe and advance airspace safety within defense and civil arenas alike. Working with Lockheed Martin, who understands the value of our technology, is important."

Lockheed Martin Ventures General Manager and Vice President Chris Moran said his company's investment in Hidden Level "underscores our focus on mitigating airspace safety challenges. We are excited to add Hidden Level to our investment portfolio and look forward to working with their team and gaining access to their distributed sensor network that may offer a solution to address these escalating challenges."

Hidden Level is the latest in a series of investments Lockheed Martin Ventures has made in recent months. In August, the company announced it had made an investment in Fiddler, an artificial intelligence company based in Palo Alto, CA, and signed a strategic cooperation agreement. In July, Lockheed Martin Ventures bought into a series A round for CalypsoAI, and in June it put money in Red 6, a Santa Monica, CA-based firm specializing in synthetic training.