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23 June 22. More money to buy weaponry and fight inflation in House defense bill. House lawmakers advanced plans for their $840bn defense policy bill early Thursday morning, which include more money to offset the costs of inflation, purchase new equipment and provide additional support for allies in Ukraine. The bipartisan 57-1 vote came after 16 hours of debate for the massive defense authorization bill, which has passed out of Congress for more than five decades. The House Armed Services Committee draft — along with the Senate Armed Services Committee’s released a week earlier — will serve as the baseline for the sweeping defense policy bill for the rest of the summer, as lawmakers in both chambers negotiate a final compromise version.
House committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., praised the passage as a sign of strong support across the parties for funding defense programs into the future.
“The bill supports the largest service member pay raise in decades, expands the talent pipeline, and partners with research institutions to accelerate the development of cutting-edge technologies that will support those in uniform,” he said.
“I am particularly proud that this year’s [National Defense Authorization Act] includes a package of bold reforms that will help mitigate and prevent civilian harm in the course of military operations.”
The 4.6% pay raise for troops in 2023 would be the largest in 20 years. The measure also contains reauthorization of a host of military specialty pays and bonuses.
It also funds the purchase of eight new battle force ships (including two Virginia-class submarines and three guided-missile destroyers), full funding for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine and the B-21A bomber program, money for 44 Abrams tank upgrades and 102 Stryker Vehicle upgrades, and purchase of 61 F-35A, B & C Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
The bill supports an extra $37bn of defense spending in fiscal 2023 above what President Joe Biden requested in his federal budget proposal.
A bipartisan group of centrist Democrats and Republicans supported the boost, which includes a substantial correction for rising inflation in recent months: $3.5bn for extra military construction costs, $2.5bn for extra fuel costs and $1.4bn for other inflation costs.
But the money would also go to equipment that the services wanted but did not include in their original budget proposals, including:
- $3.6bn for an additional destroyer, an additional frigate, an additional T-AO oiler and two expeditionary medical ships;
- $2bn for eight additional F/A-18s and other Navy/USMC aircraft;
- $400m for munitions technology development;
- $1.2bn for four additional Patriot units and 20 additional THAAD interceptors.
It also includes $550m more for Ukraine security assistance, as well as costs for “advance planning to support U.S. presence on the Eastern front.”
Additionally, it reauthorizes the Small Business Administration’s Innovation Research (SBIR) and Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The Defense Department relies heavily on these small business innovation grants, but its reauthorization is uncertain amid Senate negotiations to address concerns from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
A significant portion of the daylong debate was dedicated to social issues offered by Republicans but largely rejected by Democrats.
Provisions on banning critical race theory at military schools, blocking vaccine mandates for coronavirus, shutting down research into extremism in the military and military monitoring of illegal immigration were all defeated by the majority party.
The committee also adopted by voice vote an amendment offered by Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., the head of the Strategic Forces panel, to provide $45 m in funding for the sea-launched cruise missile nuclear development program (SLCM-N).
Cooper’s amendment puts the bill at odds with the Joe Biden administration, committee Chairman Adam Smith, and Democrats on the House Defense Appropriations Committee who seek to cancel the program. Appropriators advanced defense funding legislation that would defund SLCM-N in a separate vote on Wednesday.
However, the House Armed Services Committee voted down a separate amendment from Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, that would have withheld 25% of funds from the secretary of defense for operation and maintenance until the Air Force conducts a test flight of the Minuteman III ICBM.
The Biden administration canceled this year’s Minuteman III test flight to avoid escalating tensions with Russia after Moscow put its nuclear posture on high alert amid its invasion of Ukraine.
Similarly, armed services committee lawmakers included language in their draft preventing the Navy from decommissioning its Littoral Combat Ships. Navy leadership had recommended the decommissioning of the ships in their budget request released earlier this spring.
At the time, officials said they had more urgent spending needs. The retirement would free up money for other items more applicable to a near-term high-end fight, such as missiles. However, they also noted that if more money was found, they could find more missions for the ships.
Smith, the committee’s chairman, said he intends to continue the decommissioning fight on the House floor later this summer.
Additionally, the committee opted to allow the Air Force to proceed with its likely plan not to hold a competition for the manufacturer of the next KC-Y bridge refueling tanker. After a contentious debate, the committee adopted an amendment from Rep. Donald Norcorss, D-N.J., that would allow plans for a no-bid contract to proceed.
The full House is expected to take up the authorization bill in July. There, the floor debate is likely to repeat some of the same issues as were covered in the armed services panel’s debate, including the top line spending target.
Because the massive measure is also one of the few reliable pieces of legislation to pass through Congress each year, it also serves as a potential target for other federal budget policies. In the past, topics such as expanding paid leave for federal employees have been included in the legislation.
The Senate is also expected to take up its armed services committee’s draft next month. Lawmakers there have backed a $45bn plus-up to Biden’s budget target, setting up a spending showdown when the two chambers meet for authorization bill negotiations.
Whether that work can be completed by the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1 remains unclear. Lawmakers have met that deadline only once in the last 13 years, but remain optimistic that they can finish the bill before the November midterm elections. (Source: Defense News)
22 June 22. DOD Addresses Supply Chain Resiliency With Lone Star State Industry Even before COVID-19, the Defense Department had identified supply chain vulnerabilities for things like microelectronics. There, the onset of the pandemic exacerbated a problem the department was already aware of. But the pandemic also highlighted other areas of supply chain vulnerability in the U.S., some of which affect national security.
Deborah Rosenblum, who performs the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for industrial base policy, met June 16 with stakeholders from across the industrial base in Texas to discuss the department’s efforts to strengthen supply chain resiliency. The event, held near Fort Worth, was in partnership with the National Economic Council and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station.
“We are very aware that we are facing critical shortages across a multitude of areas including microelectronics for car manufacturing and baby formula,” Rosenblum said. “The last two years have revealed critical gaps in the U.S. industrial base and an overreliance on foreign manufacturing. As such, supply chain resilience has become not just an economic priority — it’s not just about quality of life issues — it’s become a national security imperative.”
Addressing members of the Texas business community, Rosenblum outlined three areas where the industrial base can help the Defense Department, strengthen the supply chain and contribute to a more robust defense of the nation. Those three focus areas include supply chain transparency and resilience; work force development; and increased support of small businesses.
“Supply chain resiliency is a top-of-mind issue in a way it has not been for decades, and efforts are underway across the U.S. government to understand and mitigate some of our most glaring supply chain vulnerabilities,” Rosenblum said.
For years, Rosenblum said, industry has focused almost exclusively on supply chain efficiency over supply chain resiliency. That laser-like focus on efficiency, she said, has created risk for both the department and the nation.
The Defense Department, she said, has prioritized five areas important to national defense where the supply lines are challenged. Those include castings and forgings; missiles and munitions; energy storage and batteries; strategic and critical materials; and microelectronics.
“The President’s budget request invests directly in these high-priority, defense-critical sectors, including over $250m dollars for strategic and critical materials and over $600m dollars for kinetic capabilities, such as missiles and munitions,” Rosenblum said.
Some of those investments, Rosenblum said, have been made in Texas, including in areas like rare earth elements and magnets as well as medical supplies like retractable syringes for vaccine and therapeutic delivery.
Right now, Congress is working to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act, which Rosenblum said makes investments in securing the supply chains and creating efficiencies for things like semiconductors.
“The bill supports the sort of research and development that have given American businesses and workers a competitive edge against their competitors around the world,” she said.
Another avenue the department deems worth pursuing as a way to strengthen the supply chain is development of the workforce responsible for creating the materials and supplies the United States and Defense Department need, said Rosenblum.
“Workers are a critical component of supply chains, and make them possible,” Rosenblum said. “In U.S. manufacturing, the gap between open positions and available workers is not expected to close, with an estimated 2.1m unfilled jobs by 2030.”
Through the industrial skills initiative, part of the Defense Department’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program, the department has invested over $80m in industrial workforce development and training projects since 2019, Rosenblum said.
“The intention of this initiative is to support a variety of defense weapon system development, production and sustainment needs, with a focus on skills such as welding, advanced machining, electronics, precision optics, metrology, digital/additive manufacturing and other emerging Industry 4.0 skills,” she said. “These efforts will grow and strengthen the manufacturing workforce pipeline, provide skills to new workers and upskill existing workers, and improve public perception of industrial skills careers.”
A final component of the department’s effort to create resilient supply chains is greater investment in and support of small businesses, Rosenblum said.
“American small businesses spur innovation, represent most new entrants into the defense industrial base, and through their growth create the next generation of suppliers with increasingly diverse capabilities,” she said.
Despite that, she said, the role of small businesses in the defense industrial base has shrunk by over 40% over the last decade. The department, she said, spends over $80bn each year with small businesses. But more must be done to reverse the overall downward trend.
“Small businesses are the heart of American manufacturing and DOD is committed to seeing them succeed, prosper and remain competitive,” she said. “Our goal is to increase the innovation capacity of the defense industrial base and systematically identify and mitigate pain points doing business with DOD — particularly for new entrants and non-traditional players.”
Rosenblum said one way larger companies might help is by participating in the department’s mentor-protege program and by investing time and effort to help qualify new small businesses in their own supply chains.
“We at the department will continue to find new ways we can partner going forward to build enduring advantages as we advance America’s national security and sustain America’s economic future,” Rosenblum said. (Source: US DoD)
21 June 22. Norcross to bring back tougher ‘Buy American’ legislation that rankled allies. A key U.S. lawmaker said he plans to propose stiffer federal “Buy American” requirements through the House’s annual defense authorization bill, in a renewed attempt to codify an executive order from President Joe Biden into law.
Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J., told Defense News Tuesday that he’s in talks with Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee to draft a compromise amendment when the panel marks up its version of the authorization on Wednesday. The amendment would only pertain to large defense programs, and it could recognize allies in some way, in an effort to assuage them.
“We are actively working with our allies and partners, and those in the defense committee, to try to work out a win not only for our country but for our allies and partners also,” Norcross, a former labor leader who chairs the House Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee, said in an interview.
It’s latest in a back-and-forth between Norcross and allied countries over his efforts to boost domestic jobs and manufacturing by strengthening “Buy American” requirements in federal contracting, which apply to about a third of the $600bn in goods and services the U.S. government buys each year.
Norcross last year authored legislative language that would have phased in a domestic content requirement of 75% in federal contracts by 2029, up from 55%. The measure fell away in negotiations to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the defense bill.
He’s argued that COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions make the case for bringing manufacturing and services that had been moved aboard back to the U.S., especially when national security is at stake.
The Defense Memorandum of Understanding Attachés Group, whose 25 member countries have special reciprocal trade agreements with the U.S., urged House lawmakers to oppose Norcross’s proposal sight-unseen, saying it would drive up prices already beset by inflation.
The chairman of the group, Pieter-Henk Schroor, said that such a proposal could constrain source materials from members and increase defense program acquisition program costs. The group includes Canada, France, Germany and the U.K.
“If you open up your defense-industrial base to the bases of other countries, you might find certain products that are cheaper, but also of a higher quality. And if you use the benefit that offers, we think the overall cost of military equipment would be lower than is currently the case,” he told Defense News on Tuesday. Schroor is the Dutch defense cooperation attaché in Washington.
Norcross has insisted that countries with reciprocal defense trade agreements are exempt and would remain so. The group’s members remain skeptical.
Schroor said those exemptions should be codified in legislation, as the Biden administration’s ongoing review of exemptions to Buy American rules is exacerbating fears the White House will remove them.
“We still do not know for sure” if reciprocal procurement MOUs are actually respected by the administration, Schroor said. “It’s a certainty until someone decides we are no longer exempt. A stronger legislative protection would be very helpful in our case.”
A June 17 letter from Schroor to HASC Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., and ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., cited “the need for greater industrial cooperation” in light of supply chain disruptions from COVID-19, China’s military modernization and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Efforts between the U.S. and its allies to ramp up production of weapons to supply Ukraine have thrown a spotlight onto limits of the U.S. defense-industrial base. Schroor said Tuesday the answer is to form a united front and boost production together.
“You see that many Western countries have depleted their own supplies, and our supplies need to be replenished,” he said. “But with a serious situation going on in Europe, that takes a lot of resources. We need a backup plan, and in our view that’s to step our common efforts in defense production.” (Source: Defense News)
21 June 22. Pentagon should consider ‘National Hypersonic Initiative’ to speed development, lawmakers say. A provision in the House Armed Services Committee’s draft policy bill could pave the way for a “National Hypersonic Initiative” aimed at addressing development and testing gaps and accelerating the Pentagon’s path to fielding the technology.
The U.S. Department of Defense is investing in a number of hypersonic research and development efforts across the military services, and lawmakers say they’re concerned about coordination as well as workforce and industrial base limitations, according to the committee’s proposed fiscal 2023 defense policy legislation.
In light of threats from China and Russia, the Pentagon has prioritized research and development of hypersonic systems, which can travel at or above Mach 5. The department is expected to spend $15 bn between 2015 and 2024 to advance the technology, and the White House’s National Security Council earlier this year added hypersonic capabilities to its list of critical technologies.
The bill language directs the department to explore options for creating a National Hypersonic Initiative that would guide collaboration among the services and agencies involved in development and testing activities. It would also focus on partnerships with academia and the private sector on technology maturation and drive “innovative solutions” to accelerate production and increase manufacturing capacity.
The provision, if approved, would require a report on these options from the Secretary of Defense by Feb. 1, to include five-year budget estimates for efforts that require funding.
Lawmakers also want the department to conduct a review of its hypersonic programs and priorities in light of shortfalls in testing infrastructure. Industry executives told Pentagon leaders in February that a gap in testing resources, particularly the wind tunnels used to test flight characteristics for hypersonic vehicles, is one of the primary impediments to fielding those systems.
Mark Lewis, executive director of the National Defense Industrial Association’s Emerging Technology Institute, said June 16 at the virtual Defense One Tech Summit that DoD’s test and evaluation infrastructure is “just not suited to moving quickly.”
“We have limited tunnels, we have limited flight-test opportunities and that’s impacting the rate at which we’re going,” said Lewis, who formerly served as the Pentagon’s acting deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. “If you look at our key tunnels right now, they tend to be oversubscribed, and that means programs are climbing all over each other to try to get access to those tunnels.”
Lewis added that if a program manages to schedule wind tunnel testing time and later experiences a setback that causes a delay or they want to conduct follow-up tests, they often must wait weeks or months to get back on the schedule. When programs can only conduct one or two tests at a time, he said, it affects their progress.
“Not surprisingly, we’re not having really high success rates,” he said. “Because if you don’t do something often enough, you just don’t get very good at it.”
The assessment lawmakers proposed should consider whether there are federal government or commercial test facilities DoD could use to help address capacity issues. As part of the report, the committee wants the Pentagon to consider what agreements would be needed to take advantage of that infrastructure.
Along with the review, lawmakers want the department to make a plan for how it will work with other federal agencies and industry to use their hypersonic testing facilities. That strategy is due six months after the fiscal 2023 defense policy bill is signed into law. (Source: Defense News)
21 June 22. Worried about inflation and the defense budget? A continuing resolution could make things worse. Concerns about inflation have dominated the debate around the defense budget request for fiscal 2023. The Department of Defense requested $773bn in discretionary funds, roughly 4% more in nominal dollars than the base budget level enacted by Congress for FY22.
But while rising inflation rates threaten DoD’s purchasing power, congressional politics around a continuing resolution to start FY23 could exacerbate inflation’s impact on the defense budget.
The Biden administration locked in its inflation assumptions in November of last year, projecting that inflation would decline through FY22 from FY21 highs and eventually level out.
But those forecasts have thus far proven more optimistic than realistic. Annual inflation measured by the consumer price index rose from 6.8% in November 2021 to a peak of 8.6% in May 2022, representing the largest annual increase in consumer prices since December 1981.
The GDP-chained price index, which DoD uses to measure inflation, was estimated at an annual rate of 8.1% in the first quarter of 2022 — well above the administration’s assumption of 3.9%. While it’s too soon to know with any certainty what inflation will be in FY23, current conditions suggest it will be higher than the 2.2% forecasted by the administration.
This high rate of inflation poses a threat to the department’s purchasing power. Instead of the real increase in defense spending assumed by DoD, rising prices over 2022 likely means the requested level of funding represents a cut. And the administration’s five-year funding projections could mean an even greater loss in purchasing power — potentially over $300bn between FY23 and FY27 — should high inflation persist.
The updated projections base FY21 and FY22 inflation levels of 4.2% and 8.1% on estimates published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in May while assuming inflation will remain high in FY23 (6%) before falling over the remainder of the time frame. If high inflation persists, DoD could experience a total loss of buying power of more than $300bn over the next five years, measured in constant FY20 dollars.
Unless the Biden administration intends to scale back the demands it places on an already over-stressed military — which appears unlikely given the conflict in Ukraine and the administration’s recent decision to redeploy troops to Somalia for counterterrorism missions — DoD must work with Congress to mitigate the effects of inflation. In May, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks expressed the department’s willingness to work with legislators on updating inflation estimates to protect DoD’s buying power in the FY23 request.
The ball is firmly in Congress’ court to combat the effects of inflation on the defense budget given its constitutionally-mandated power of the purse. But congressional politics could threaten to exacerbate inflation’s effects on DoD’s purchasing power.
If Congress fails to pass appropriations by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 — a task made more difficult by the administration’s late budget request — DoD will likely be forced to operate under a continuing resolution for months. The department is no stranger to working under continuing resolutions, having started the year under one for 15 of the past 20 fiscal years with an average CR length of over 112 days.
But a long-term continuing resolution this year would have a more severe impact given inflation. Under a normal continuing resolution, DoD would be funded at the FY22 base funding level of $742bn (excluding emergency supplemental funding in FY 2022), which would mean a significant loss in buying power to start the fiscal year.
A long-term continuing resolution may be more likely given this year’s midterm elections. If one or both chambers of Congress shift control, legislators may delay passing appropriations until the new Congress is seated in January 2023 to gain more favorable terms in budget negotiations.
The Biden administration and both political parties in Congress must work together to mitigate the effects of inflation by passing FY23 appropriations by the start of the fiscal year. To get buy-in from Democrats and Republicans, this will likely require a budget agreement that increases funding levels for both defense and non-defense programs above the administration’s request. Washington has seen this trend before: During the Budget Control Act era of the last decade, both parties came together to increase defense and non-defense funding above the spending limits in a series of budget deals.
If they fail to reach an agreement to pass a long-term appropriations bill by the start of the fiscal year, Congress at the very least can pass a continuing resolution that raises funding for defense and non-defense programs above FY22 levels by a uniform across-the-board rate, as they have done at times in the past. This would provide a temporary solution that restores some lost buying power in FY23. (Source: Defense News)
21 June 22. DOD Official Talks on Easing Process to Work With Small Businesses. The theme for this year’s Defense Department Small Business Training Week Conference is “Expand. Innovate. Diversify.”
This theme “aligns closely with our priorities,” said Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks, who spoke remotely at the conference.
Small businesses are indispensable in helping DOD defend the nation, she said.
Among those encouraged to attend the conference include DOD small business professionals, program managers and contracting officers.
Small businesses provide critical parts for weapons and systems platforms and develop innovative technologies so DOD can maintain its battlefield advantage, Hicks added, noting that small businesses generate 16 times more patents than larger firms.
“Their smaller size gives them an ability to rapidly experiment and implement change,” Hicks said. To maintain its technological and military advantage, the U.S. needs to out-innovate competitors and any would-be adversary. Unfortunately, the number of small businesses in the Defense Industrial Base has declined by over 40% in the last decade, Hicks said.
“We know that working with DOD as a smaller firm isn’t easy,” she added.
Small businesses don’t always have the resources to navigate complicated compliance practices, which can discourage them from working with the department, she said.
Reducing these barriers and creating more opportunities for small businesses will allow the department to expand, innovate, and diversify, increasing the warfighters’ advantage, strengthening supply chains, increasing competition in the marketplace, and growing the U.S. economy, she said.
That is why DOD is taking steps to reverse the contraction in its small business industrial base.
For example, to better help small businesses compete effectively, DOD has put in place the Mentor-Protege Program, Hicks said.
The department is also ensuring Procurement Technical Assistance Centers are better integrated into DOD’s broader small business and industrial base activities, she said.
DOD is also providing tools and technologies that the acquisition workforce needs to perform more effective market research, she said.
The virtual conference, which aims to provide attendees with insights into the current state of competition and systemic challenges to expanding competition while explaining the positive actions that DOD is taking to broaden its competitive base, will continue through June 23. (Source: US DoD)
22 June 22. US rolls back more permissive 2020 anti-personnel landmine policy, again limits use to Korean Peninsula. Washington is reverting to an Obama administration era policy that restricts the use of anti-personnel landmines to the Korean Peninsula.
“At the president’s direction, the United States will align its policy concerning use of these weapons outside of the Korean Peninsula with key provisions of the Ottawa Convention, the international treaty prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a 21 June announcement.
She noted that President Joe Biden will “prohibit” the development, production, and acquisition of anti-personnel landmines prohibited under the Ottawa Convention but did not announce that the US would sign onto the treaty. (Source: Janes)
20 Jun 22. House lawmakers eye 70% funding boost for Pentagon’s commercial innovation hub. House lawmakers proposed a surge in funding for the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit following its leader’s sudden resignation, reportedly over concerns about a lack of support for the office’s mission to transition commercial technology for military use.
The House Armed Services Committee on Monday released its version of the fiscal 2023 defense policy bill, which recommends $113.4 m for DIU. That’s about $46 m more than what the Defense Department requested.
The proposal follows calls from committee members for greater investment in commercial technology. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., urged a 10-fold increase in DIU funding at a cyber, innovative technologies and information systems subcommittee meeting last month.
“The department has repeatedly emphasized harnessing commercial technology better,” Moulton said May 12. “It’s been Congress, not the department, that has repeatedly pushed investment in DIU and in innovation.”
DIU Director Mike Brown in late April announced he would resign when his four-year term ends in September, despite an option to extend his service by one year. Brown told his colleagues at the time he was leaving, in part, because of a lack of support from the Pentagon’s senior leaders, Politico reported.
The committee’s recommended increase for DIU would add $15m for national security innovation capital, $10m for joint programs, $5.6m for hybrid space architecture work, $5m for electric propulsion and $2.5m for artificial intelligence. It also proposes $8 m for DIU prototype projects.
Elsewhere in the bill, lawmakers called on DIU to work with the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office to create a Mission-Based Rapid Acquisition Account focused on increasing the department’s work with small businesses. The measure proposes $30m for the effort in fiscal 2023 and requires regular briefings from the deputy secretary of defense on how the department is using the funds. (Source: Defense News)
20 Jun 22. Paul to oppose small business program Pentagon uses to spur innovation. A key U.S. lawmaker says he will oppose reauthorization of federal small business innovation grants favored by the Pentagon, raising doubts about how Congress will avert their expiration Sept. 30.
The Small Business Administration’s Innovation Research (SBIR) and Technology Transfer (STTR) awards, made jointly with a dozen federal agencies, are intended to help companies and research institutions develop promising technologies. The seed funding is prized by the Pentagon as it seeks to compete with China on innovation.
The total budget for the 40-year-old program ballooned to nearly $3.3bn in 2019, with the Department of Defense accounting for the majority of the awards. Individual grants range from tens of thousands of dollars to more than $200,000.
Opposition to renewal comes chiefly from Sen. Rand Paul, the top Republican on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. The Kentucky lawmaker will not support reauthorizing the programs as-is, arguing they lack protections against ties between the SBIR program awardees and China, according to a spokesperson.
Paul opposes companies whose business model is to generate SBIR-funded research but not to ever spin-off any small businesses from it, the spokesperson said.
“There are currently severe risks to national security when China continues to steal technology seeded by this program,” according to the spokesperson, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Dr. Paul will not reauthorize this program without reforms to strengthen research security and stop abusive behavior by bad actors lining their pockets with taxpayer dollars at the expense of new small businesses with emerging technologies being able to access SBIR awards.”
Panel Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said this week that negotiations with Paul are ongoing, and that there are several legislative avenues to pass a SBIR/STTR extension.
Pentagon officials have urged Congress not to let the programs lapse, which they say will hurt America’s technological dominance, military and economy. Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Austainment William LaPlante and Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu urged renewal in a June 3 letter to lawmakers.
“Failure to reauthorize the programs will result in approximately 1,200 warfighter needs not being addressed through innovative research and technology development,” they said. “In addition, any lapse could result in thousands of small businesses being forced to lay off workers, or drive them to other sources of funding, to include foreign investment.”
Shyu and LaPlante said they have been “fortifying security control to ensure that SBIR/STTR-funded technology is not transferred to adversary nations.”
SBIR has been extended and reauthorized several times since its initial enactment. In 2016, it and the STTR program were extended through Sept. 30, 2022, by the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
There are several possible avenues for SBIR/STTR reauthorization this year, including legislation to boost the country’s ability to compete with China technologically, Cardin said. The House version of the bill would reauthorize the programs.
Both chambers of Congress have passed their own versions of the bill, but time is running out before Congress’s summer recess, after which a focus on the midterm elections might complicate a compromise.
The 2023 NDAA and appropriations legislation are other potential vehicles.
“We have various options but we are very much committed to at least extending if not making permanent the SBIR/STTR programs,” Cardin said. (Source: Defense News)
21 Jun 22. US Congress AUKUS Working Group introduces nuclear training bill for RAN officers. The US Congress’s AUKUS Working Group has introduced a new bipartisan bill, the Australia-U.S. Submarine Officer Pipeline Act, which would enable the start of US-based training of Commanding Officers for Australia’s future fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. The four Chairmen of the Working Group, representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Blake Moore (R-UT) were also joined by Reps. Rob Wittman (VA-01), Donald Norcross (NJ-01), and Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) as original co-sponsors of the bill. The AUKUS Working Group serves as the go-to panel in the U.S. Congress for implementation of and collaboration on the new undersea alliance.
The Australia-U.S. Submarine Officer Pipeline Act outlines that the U.S., U.K., and Australia should work strategically to deliver the capabilities outlined in the new undersea alliance, including by engaging with industry partners and by expanding industrial base capacity to support increased submarine production. To prepare for the successful operation of future undersea capabilities, the bill establishes an exchange program between the U.S. Navy and the Royal Australian Navy to integrate and train Australian sailors for the operation and maintenance of nuclear-powered submarines.
“Establishing a joint training pipeline between our navy and the Australian navy is a critical step that will take our security partnership to the next level,” said Rep. Gallagher. “I’m proud to work alongside my colleagues to introduce this vital legislation that not only demonstrates Congress’ unwavering support of the AUKUS partnership but begins taking the many steps that will be required to realize its full potential.”
The four Chairmen state the delivery of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia will require the appropriate training and development of future commanding officers, so the bill is designed to uphold the stewardship of the US Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. Under the program, a minimum of two Australian submarine officers would be selected each year to participate in training with the U.S. Navy. Each such participant will receive training in the Navy Nuclear Propulsion School, enroll in the Submarine Office Basic Course and then be assigned to duty on an operational U.S. submarine at sea.
“The AUKUS alliance is the most important national security partnership that America has entered into in decades,” said Rep. Courtney.” Its centerpiece is creating an Australian nuclear-powered undersea fleet of submarines, which all three allies are actively designing. While that work is ongoing, it makes sense to open the U.S. Navy’s nuclear training programs to Australia’s naval officers to acquire proficiency in the operation of nuclear submarines
The Australia-U.S. Submarine Officer Pipeline Act is a major milestone in the successful implementation of AUKUS, he added. The bill will authorize an education and training program for RAN submariners to receive formal instruction in the highest standard of U.S. Navy technology. “This bipartisan bill has the full support of the AUKUS Working Group, and we should waste no time in moving it forward towards a final vote.”
Two days later the US Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Carlos Del Toro, announced that Rear Admiral Dave Goggins has been selected as a Special Assistant in support of the AUKUS partnership’s effort. Goggins is currently the Program Executive Officer Attack Submarines (PEO SSN) and will be relieved by Rear Adm. Jonathon Rucker. Goggins will report to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN RD&A).
“Rear Adm. Goggins will also be leading the planning and standup of the enduring U.S. Navy efforts to implement whichever approach the Australian’s choose at the end of the consultation period.” said Secretary Del Toro. “This move strengthens the AUKUS submarine initiative and demonstrates our commitment to the United States’ allies.”
Goggins was previously the Virginia Class Program Manager and initiated the design of the Virginia Payload Module and Acoustic Superiority upgrades for the Virginia Class. As PEO SSN, Goggins oversaw the construction and delivery of Virginia Class SSNs and also lifecyle and maintenance of in-service attack submarines. (Source: Rumour Control)
17 June 22. Congress wants to double rare earth mineral fund to free defense supply chain from China. Congress seeks to more than double the net worth of the national strategic mineral stockpile to lessen the defense industrial base’s reliance on adversaries such as China for supplies needed to build everything from bullets to nuclear weapons to night vision goggles.
The Senate’s annual defense authorization bill, which the Armed Services Committee advanced Thursday, would authorize $1 bn in funding for the National Defense Stockpile in fiscal 2023 to “acquire strategic and critical minerals currently in shortfall,” per a summary of the legislation.
This would more than double the value of the stockpile of rare earth minerals, which includes many essential to defense supply chains, including titanium, tungsten, cobalt and antimony.
The fund is currently valued at $888m, down from $42bn in today’s dollars at its peak during the beginning of the Cold War in 1952. Lawmakers fear the National Defense Stockpile will become insolvent by FY25, absent congressional action, and are prioritizing shoring up the fund in this year’s defense appropriations and authorization cycle.
The stockpile is managed by the Defense Logistics Agency, and the Pentagon submitted a legislative proposal to Congress earlier this year asking for $253.5m for FY23. The $1bn the Senate seeks to allocate would cover this while backfilling multiple funding requests the National Defense Stockpile has made in previous fiscal years and providing greater financial security in the years ahead.
The Senate bill would also amend the law to give the Defense Department more discretion and flexibility over the fund. Current law encourages the National Defense Stockpile to engage in mineral sell-offs to satisfy Congressional Budget Office requirements rather than hold onto the reserve for emergencies.
Congress also authorized repeated stockpile sell-offs to fund other programs when the United States was less worried about near-peer competitors such as China, which dominates the strategic mineral supply chain, and more focused on counterterrorism operations in the Middle East and Africa.
Of particular concern is the supply of antimony, a mineral needed to produce basic bullets and ammunition, that comes almost entirely from China. Russia is gaining ground as the world’s second largest supplier of antimony, with Tajikistan coming in third.
The Senate defense bill would require the Defense Department to brief Congress on vulnerabilities in the antimony supply chain. Draft legislation of the House defense authorization bill also mandates a briefing on antimony as well as a five-year plan on supply chain vulnerabilities of critical minerals in the stockpile.
Both bills would require the Defense Department to instate a policy of recycling spent batteries to reclaim strategic minerals needed in the defense industrial supply chain such as cobalt and lithium.
The House is expected to advance its version of the defense authorization bill next week before both chambers vote on the legislation later this year.
The $40bn Ukraine military aid package Congress passed last month also includes $500m in Defense Production Act funding to bolster the U.S. critical mineral supply chain. (Source: Defense News)
17 June 22. Senators seek boosts for JADC2, cyber mission, hypersonics in defense bill. U.S. lawmakers are pushing for more money to support the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control endeavor and the creation of a related headquarters in the Indo-Pacific, as well as for critical technology including microelectronics and hypersonics. The provisions were included in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal year 2023 defense policy bill, according to a 30-page summary released June 16. The legislation, sporting an $847bn top line, recommends an additional $245m for JADC2, the Department of Defense vision for unrestrained communications and rapid data sharing across land, air, sea, space and cyber.
Exactly how much has been spent on JADC2 and its components — the Army’s Project Convergence, the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System and the Navy’s Project Overmatch — is unclear, as the massive effort sprawls into classified space and is not defined by a singular line item.
Members of a House cyber subcommittee this month sought an audit of JADC2 progress and price tags, as well as updates from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. No overall cost estimate for JADC2 had been formulated as of mid-March, when the Pentagon issued a public strategy for the initiative.
The Senate measure further calls for the “establishment of a Joint Force Headquarters in U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, effects chain and mission-based command and control experimentation” and “novel kill chain development.”
The central hub for JADC2 would be due by October 2024. An implementation plan would be required prior, according to the bill, now headed to the Senate floor. The JADC2 Cross-Functional Team would remain under the purview of the Joint Chiefs of Staff J-6 director for command, control, communications, computers and cyber.
The bill also includes “significant funding increases” and reporting requirements for microelectronics, hypersonic weapons and artificial intelligence, though the summary doesn’t tally the proposed funding growth.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, said the legislation “provides critical support for our allies and partners in Europe and the Indo-Pacific region and addresses other persistent threats around the globe.”
It “strengthens our offensive and defensive cyber capabilities and accelerates research and development of advanced technologies like hypersonics and artificial intelligence that will give our forces critical advantages,” he said in a statement.
Supply chain focus
The executive summary highlights a proposed $70m increase to establish a national network for microelectronics research and development activities. The bill would also direct the department to commission an independent review, led by experts in commercial microelectronics, that considers options for DoD’s use of the technology.
The Pentagon lists microelectronics as one of four supply chain focus areas, calling the technology a primary differentiator for asymmetric technology advantage over potential adversaries. Most of today’s microelectronics production capacity, assembly and testing happens outside the U.S.
The department is working to shore up the domestic microelectronics industrial base, including a “Microelectronic Commons” initiative that would establish a network of regional hubs to develop the technology and improve manufacturing processes.
Senate lawmakers included a provision in their version of the bill that would require the department to develop a government-industry working group for microelectronics to serve a resource for information on areas of “mutual interest” related to research, development and manufacturing, according to the summary.
They also want to see more investment in hypersonic testing and prototyping efforts. One provision calls for a strategy to mature reusable commercial hypersonic technology and use it for rapid prototyping. Another directs a report on how the department will use “all available tools” to reduce schedule risks on hypersonic weapon programs.
The bill would also require a briefing on the department’s testing facilities “to ensure the on-time development and fielding of hypersonic systems.”
Industry and DoD officials have said the availability and readiness of hypersonic testing infrastructure is a barrier to progress on these programs. In February, during a meeting convened by Austin to discuss hypersonic technology development, industry executives identified testing infrastructure shortfalls as a major impediment to fielding the capabilities on a faster timeline.
Cyber and more
The committee’s version of the annual policy bill would also bolster U.S. efforts to operate effectively in cyberspace and help partners abroad.
The bill recommends an additional $44m to support Cyber Command’s hunt-forward operations and $20m more for Army offensive cyber development.
The U.S. dispatched a hunt-forward team to Lithuania ahead of Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine in an attempt to expose malign activity and strengthen the country’s networks. The operation lasted three months, wrapping in May.
The Cyber National Mission Force has over the years conducted 28 hunt-forward missions in 16 countries, including Estonia, Montenegro and North Macedonia.
Such expeditions offer a “key asymmetric advantage that our adversaries don’t have,” according to Army Maj. Gen. Joe Hartman, the Cyber National Mission Force commander. “We get to find our adversaries in foreign space, before they’re able to come to America and compromise our network. And while we do that, we get to make our partners and allies safer.”
The bill also seeks a $50 m boost for AI development for CYBERCOM as well as an increase of $30 m for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to apply AI and autonomy to cybersecurity and other digital challenges.
Other key stipulations in the Senate panel’s mark include:
- A strategy for fielding capabilities to counter unmanned aerial system swarms
- Establishment of a Public-Private Partnership Technology Investment Program to pilot development and transition of high-priority technologies
- Expansion of international participation in cooperative research and development projects to include entities within the National Technology Industrial Base as well as the European Union
- A $200 m boost for 5G technology development
- Unclassified plans for the transition of 5G infrastructure
- A $50 m increase for low-cost attritable aircraft technology
- An extra $85 m to develop, test, and prototype jamming protection, electronic warfare and signature measurement technology
- A requirement for the integration of offensive and defensive electronic warfare capabilities into joint training exercises
- $15 m for security enhancements for the nuclear command, control, and communications network, also known as NC3
- A requirement for a next-generation electromagnetic spectrum capability roadmap
The timing of a full Senate debate and vote on the draft defense policy bill was not immediately clear.
The House Armed Services Committee is expected to finalize its version of the annual defense bill next week. A compromise could come by the end of the summer. (Source: Defense News)
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