A U.S. Soldier assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) observes as one of his counterparts operates a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle during an operational driver's training course in Germany, April 22, 2021.

A U.S. Soldier assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) observes as one of his counterparts operates a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle during an operational driver's training course in Germany, April 22, 2021. U.S. Army / Jason Johnston

Defense Business Brief: ChatGPT's thoughts on industry, Big NNSA contract; JLTV protest, and a bit more.

With ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence-driven search engine being all the rage right now, I finally caved and gave it a try. Naturally, I asked its thoughts on the state of the U.S. defense industrial base. Here’s its response:

“The United States defense industrial base is a critical component of the country’s national security infrastructure. It includes a broad range of businesses that produce military goods and services, including weapons, vehicles, communications systems, and other equipment.

In recent years, there has been concern about the state of the defense industrial base. Some experts have pointed to the aging of the workforce, the decline in the number of small businesses in the sector, and the increasing reliance on foreign suppliers for critical components as potential challenges to the long-term health of the base.

To address these issues, the U.S. government has taken a number of steps, including increasing funding for research and development, investing in workforce development programs, and strengthening regulations around foreign investment and technology transfer.

Despite these efforts, there is ongoing debate about the effectiveness of these measures and the overall health of the defense industrial base. Some experts argue that more needs to be done to ensure that the United States remains competitive in the global defense market and can continue to provide the military with the equipment and technology it needs to protect the country’s interests.”

That's a pretty good macro-level assessment. I tried some other, more nuanced, queries and the results varied. I even asked about myself and the results were a little mixed as well. For instance, the chatbot listed incorrect news organizations where it claimed I had worked.


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NEW TODAY: The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration has awarded Rebellion Defense, the defense software company run by former Pentagon tech guru Chris Lynch, a contract for its Rebellion Nova software, which will defend the department’s critical infrastructure. 

"Nova lets you see your mission, your operations, as your adversary would see it, and it does it by automating tactics, techniques, procedures, … that your adversaries would use to basically compromise or take down your mission or whatever it is that you're relying upon in order to operate,” Lynch said in an interview.

The software being used by NNSA, the arm of the Energy Department that oversees the maintenance and security of U.S. nuclear weapons, will assist cybersecurity officials, allowing them to respond more quickly.

Using the software represents a “forward leaning stance” by NNSA and an acknowledgement that “there's just threats and challenges that we don't look like the ones that we had from the past,” Lynch said.

“What's pretty awesome about Nova is it'll actually be able to track vulnerabilities over time to let the defenders and sort of commands and customers know if those things have been remedied and actually be able to track and change that,” Lynch said.

The Energy Department contract marks the first time the technology has been purchased by a civilian government agency. The software is used by a number of military organizations, Lynch said. The value of the contract was not disclosed.

Ground vehicle maker Oshkosh said its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle production line would close in 2024 if the Army’s decision to award rival AM General a contract for the same vehicles is not overturned. Oshkosh challenged the Army decision earlier this month. The Government Accountability Office is expected to make a ruling by June 14.

Oshkosh won the Army JLTV competition to replace tens of thousands humvees back in 2015. The company maintains it has built and delivered more than 20,000 vehicles on time and on budget. The Army always intended to recompete the contract regardless of Oshkosh’s performance. But the company has felt that its performance, as well as investments it made to update the vehicle with new technology, positioned it well to win the recompete.

“We had been focused on driving out all of the costs … leaning out the supply chain, really squeezing every penny out of that cost structure in preparation for the recompete,” Oshkosh Defense President Tim Bleck said in an interview.

The Army in February selected humvee maker AM General to build JLTVs—20,000 vehicles and 10,000 trailers over the next five years, with an option for an additional five years. The deal, which Oshkosh is contesting, is worth up to $8.6 billion. 

“We believe that the Army has awarded the JLTV contract to a company that will incur hundreds of millions of dollars of losses, really, without the financial resources to operate at such a loss,” Bleck said.

Bleck said Oshkosh “would lose a significant amount of money” if it had submitted a bid similar to AM General. “We had the warm production line, existing infrastructure, and that established supply chain and experienced workforce and the intellectual property to execute the program,” he said.

The Army can order JLTVs from Oshkosh under its existing contract until the end of November.

JLTV is one of two high-profile U.S. Army contracts that are being challenged. The other is the Army’s selection of the Bell V-280 titlrotor aircraft to replace the Black Hawk helicopter. GAO is expected to make a ruling on Sikorsky’s protest by Friday.

Two senators have introduced legislation that would repeal a research-and-development tax often criticized by companies and trade groups. Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. and Todd Young, R-Ind., introduced the American Innovation and Jobs Act, which would expand “the refundable R&D tax credit and extending it to more startups and small businesses.” The bill also reverses a 2017 law that limited R&D tax deductions. "Congress once again has the opportunity to reverse course on the harmful R&D tax policy and send a message to our adversaries that the U.S. is serious about investments in our innovation base and national security,” Aerospace Industries Association CEO Eric Fanning said of the legislation.

Defense tech startup Anduril released a video of its ALTIUS-600M loitering munition during a test. In the video, the drone is shown flying along the side of a mountain before crashing into a shipping container. Announced in October, the drone is a variant of the commercial ALTIUS-600. 

Canada is considering buying up to 16 Boeing-made P-8 submarine hunting planes to replace its Lockheed CP-140 Aurora aircraft, Ottawa said in a statement. “Procuring a new fleet is required to ensure Canada’s military has the equipment it needs to continue protecting Canadian sovereignty along its coastline,” the government said. It added that the P-8 is the only existing aircraft that meets the country’s requirements. Ottawa has submitted a letter of request to the U.S. State Department.