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July 27, 2021 | International, Aerospace

Lockheed Martin classified aircraft programme goes over budget

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  • As tech startups catch DoD’s eye, big investors are watching

    January 31, 2020 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    As tech startups catch DoD’s eye, big investors are watching

    By: Jill Aitoro SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Private investors are not yet lining up to back defense startups, but they are paying close attention. Two factors have created an opening that could lure venture capitalists to defense investments: first, a few select venture-backed technology startups are gaining traction; and second, there’s been a strategic shift in approach to weapons development from the U.S. Department of Defense, focusing more on information warfare and, as such, software. In the words of Mike Madsen, director of strategic engagement at the Pentagon’s commercial tech hub, Defense Innovation Unit: "We’re at a significant inflection point right now that will be visible through the lens of history.” Nonetheless, for the tech startups, it’s been slow going, as discussed during a Defense News roundtable in California. For the second year, leadership from DoD and the tech community came together to discuss the state of the Pentagon’s efforts to attract commercial startups — this time digging into the challenges and opportunities that come with investment in defense development. “We went into this eyes wide open, knowing full well that to the venture community, the math doesn’t make sense. Making the choice to contribute to the advancement of artificial intelligence for DoD represented for us more of a mission-driven objective,” said Ryan Tseng, founder of artificial intelligence startup Shield AI. But early on, “we were fortunate to get the backing of Andreessen Horowitz, a top-tier venture fund. They’re certainly leaning in, in terms of their thinking about defense technology — believing that despite the history, there might be a way to find an opening to create companies that can become economically sustainable and make substantial mission impact.” Shield AI has raised $50 million in venture funding since 2015, with more rounds expected. Indeed, a few key Silicon Valley investors have emerged as the exceptions to the rule, putting dollars toward defense startups. In addition to Andreessen Horowitz, which counts both Shield AI and defense tech darling Anduril in its portfolio, there’s General Catalyst, which also invested in Anduril, as well as AI startup Vannevar Labs. And then of course there’s Founders Fund. Led by famed Silicon investors Peter Thiel, Ken Howery and Brian Singerman, among others, the venture firm was an early investor in Anduril, as well as mobile mesh networking platform goTenna. Founders Fund placed big bets on Palantir Technologies and SpaceX in the early days, which paid off in a big way. Some of the early successes of these startups have “done an excellent job of making investors greedy,” said Katherine Boyle, an investor with General Catalyst. “There’s a growing group who are interested in this sector right now, and they’ve looked at the success of these companies and [are] saying: ‘OK, let’s learn about it.’ ” Take Anduril: The defense tech startup — co-founded by Oculus founder Palmer Luckey and Founders Fund partner Trae Stephens — has raised more than $200 million and hit so-called unicorn status in 2019, reaching a valuation of more than $1 billion. As the successes piled up, so did the venture capital funding. According to Fortune magazine, those investors included Founders Fund, 8VC, General Catalyst, XYZ Ventures, Spark Capital, Rise of the Rest, Andreessen Horowitz, and SV Angel. “I started my career at Allen & Company investment banking. Herbert Allen, who’s in his 80s, always said: ‘Hey, you should run into an industry where people are running away,’ ” said John Tenet, a partner with 8VC as well as a co-founder and vice chairman of defense startup Epirus. “There’s so much innovation occurring, where the government can be the best and biggest customer. And there are people who really want to solve hard problems. It’s just figuring out where the synergies lie, what the ‘one plus one equals three’ scenario will be.” Also attracting the attention of Silicon Valley investors is the growing emphasis by the Pentagon not only on systems over platforms, but software over hardware. Boyle described the shift as the “macro tailwind” that often drives innovation in a sector. Similar revolutions happened in industrials and automotive markets — both of which are also massive, global and slow-moving. That emphasis on tech, combined with some recent hard lessons, also provides a glimmer of hope that the typical hurdles associated with defense investments — lengthy procurement cycles and dominance by traditional manufacturers, for example — could be overcome. Consider U.S. Code 2377, which requires that commercially available items be considered first in procurement efforts, said Anduril’s Stephens. He also noted court decisions in lawsuits filed by SpaceX and Palantir, which ultimately validated claims that defense agencies had not properly ensured a level playing field for major competitions. “These types of things are now at least in recent memory for Congress, and so they have some awareness of the issues that are being faced,” Stephens said. “It’s much easier now to walk into a congressional office and say, ‘Here’s the problem that we’re facing’ or ‘Here’s the policy changes that we would need.’ There are also enough bodies like DIU, like In-Q-Tel, like AFWERX, like the Defense Innovation Board, like the [Defense Science Board] — places where you can go to express the need for change. And oftentimes you do see that language coming into the [National Defense Authorization Act]. It’s part of a longer-term cultural battle for sure.” For now, all these factors contribute to the majority of skeptical investors’ decisions to watch the investments with interest — even if they still take a wait-and-see approach. And that places a lot of pressure on the companies that are, in a sense, the proof of concept for a new portfolio segment. “My fear is that if this generation of companies doesn’t figure [it] out, if they don’t knock down the doors and if there aren’t a few successes, we’re going to have 20, 30 years of just no investor looking around the table and saying we need to work for the Department of Defense,” Boyle said. “If there aren’t some success stories coming out of this generation of companies, it’s going to be very hard to look our partners in the eye and say: ‘We should keep investing in defense because look at how well things have turned out.’”

  • DARPA SBIR/STTR Opportunities

    April 14, 2020 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    DARPA SBIR/STTR Opportunities

      On April 8, 2020, the DARPA Small Business Programs Office (SBPO) pre-released the following SBIR/STTR Opportunities (SBOs): "Seabed Simulation Synthesis", Announcement Number HR001120S0019-04, published at "Wearable Laser Detection and Alert System", Announcement Number HR001120S0019-05, published at "Open Source Wide Band Software Defined Acoustic Modem", Announcement Number HR001120S0019-06, published at These SBOs will open for proposals on April 23, 2020 and close on May 26, 2020.       If you have any questions on the open BAAs or DSIP, please contact the DSIP Help Desk Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET at 703-214-1333 or Thank you for your interest in the DoD SBIR/STTR Program. DoD SBIR/STTR Support Team

  • Pentagon’s CIO shop teams with armed services to prep for move to JEDI cloud

    October 2, 2020 | International, C4ISR

    Pentagon’s CIO shop teams with armed services to prep for move to JEDI cloud

    Andrew Eversden WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s top IT official said Wednesday that his office has spent the last few months preparing the armed services to migrate to the department’s long-delayed enterprise cloud as soon as it becomes available. “We’re doing a lot of work with the services on getting them prepared to move their [software] development processes and cycles to DevOps so when the [Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure] cloud finally does get awarded, we’re not starting at Day One,” Dana Deasy, Pentagon chief information officer, said during a Defense Writers Group roundtable. The JEDI cloud contract was originally awarded to Microsoft over Amazon Web Services 11 months ago, and then was halted by a federal judge in February. Though the court case remains unresolved, Deasy said the services must now identify tools, integration environments and directories that need set up to connect users into the cloud when it’s available. Despite the judge’s decision, “that’s all work that we can do because it sits inside our ownership all ready,” Deasy said. While the Department of Defense has faced criticism for its single-award structure, particularly as cloud technologies have advanced during the yearslong delay, Deasy insisted the JEDI cloud still fills a critical capability gap the department needs to deliver to the war fighter: data at the tactical edge and DevOps. The JEDI cloud is the platform the department still envisions for those needs and is an important piece of the Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept, an initiative through which the services want to connect sensors and shooters. Deasy said the DoD has solutions in place to form that connection, but still needs “that tactical cloud out at the tactical edge.” “JADC2 is going to point out, time and time again, about the need of being able to swiftly bring data together. And guess what? That data is going to be of different classifications, and bringing that together in a cross-domain way in a very quick-to-need [way] is something that is still a need we have across the Department of Defense that JEDI was specifically designed to solve for,” Deasy said. Cloud, data and artificial intelligence are core elements to enabling JADC2. Using data for joint war fighting is the top priority of the department’s forthcoming data strategy, which Deasy said he expects will be released in the next 30 days. The department has a lot of data, but it is not necessarily prepared or stored in a way that is ready to be used for any sort of operations. The data strategy is expected to outline how to approach those challenges. The DoD’s new chief data officer, Dave Spirk, will finalize the data strategy. After he started in June, Spirk went on a “listening tour” across the department to inform the strategy. Deasy said Spirk was told by many components that the department needs to set goals to ensure data is visible, understandable and trustworthy, while also easily within classification levels. They also said the data needs to be interoperable and secure, while also linked and integrated between sensors and shooters. The Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the department’s AI hub that’s situated under Deasy’s office, is tackling joint war fighting this year under a new project that uses AI to link intelligence gathering systems to operations and effects systems for commanders. The JAIC recently awarded its Joint Common Foundation contract to Deloitte. The company is to provide an environment for an enterprisewide AI development platform. That platform, which uses the Air Force’s Cloud One enterprise cloud, was originally supposed to operate inside the JEDI cloud. Therein lies the challenge for the DoD: Components that have been waiting for the JEDI cloud have had to look elsewhere — a problem Deasy recognizes he’ll have to grapple with. Right now, Deasy is encouraging components that are waiting for JEDI but have an “urgent war-fighting need” to look elsewhere for platforms. “That is obviously OK in the short term, but over time that starts to become problematic because now you’re starting to set up a lot of different solutions in different environments where you’re going to have to go back and sort out in an enterprise way,” Deasy said.

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