DoD Modernization Can’t Happen Alone, Defense Official Says

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Source: DoD,
Source: DoD,

May 11, 2021 | Originally published by U.S. Department of Defense on April 13, 2021

Technology development that’s competitive with that of adversaries is something the Defense Department can’t accomplish on its own. It must be done in partnership with academia, partner nations, and the U.S. private sector technology industry, said the DoD official who’s performing the duties of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

“Presenting a credible deterrent to potential adversaries requires us to develop and field emerging technologies,” Barbara McQuiston told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. “We must innovate at speed and scale. Success requires more than a go-it-alone approach. We must explore more flexible partnerships with the private sector and academia, with small businesses and [historically black colleges and universities]. We must reinvigorate our federal research capabilities, elevate science, promote technology, and expand partnerships with our allies.”

One area where that effort is happening now, McQuiston said, is at the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). The DIU was designed to more quickly bring technology being developed within the private sector into the DoD.

“With the activities to date, they have 189 companies now on contract,” McQuiston told senators. “75% are small business, 32% are first-time vendors, and 10% have already transitioned into military use — and that’s the key, to be flexible and to work at speed, at commercial speed, in order to integrate the technology rapidly into the service.”

Also part of research and engineering is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which has been at the very edge of technology development of the Defense Department for more than 60 years, said Stefanie Tompkins, DARPA Director.

Tompkins told senators DARPA has partnered with academia and the private sector to bring to fruition technologies, including stealth, precision-guided weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles, the internet, automated voice recognition, language translation, and GPS receivers. “DARPA’s role today is equally important,” she said.

“At DARPA, we think not just about scientific and engineering innovation, though, but also about the ‘innovation ecosystem.’ That ecosystem includes many overlapping and adjacent communities from academia, industry, and government,” she said.

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