This year’s version of the Pentagon’s science-and-technology strategy sounds a lot like last year’s, which called for outpacing China in quantum science, hypersonics, cyber, artificial intelligence, and other areas. The new version released Tuesday calls for improved communication from Congress and allies to the world.
“Outside the Department we will enhance communication with industry and academia, not only by communicating more, increasing transparency about our core operational problems,” says the 12-page document.
This will also foster more international collaboration, the document says, adding that “we are prepared to accept more risk to share more information with allies and partners who share with us and protect sensitive information.”
“Science and technology has long been part of the United States’ value proposition not just to the military and its capacity to influence the world, but to how we help our partners and allies,” Nina Kollars, advisor to the defense undersecretary for research and engineering, told reporters ahead of the strategy’s release. “And the implications if we do not succeed are quite dire.”
The unclassified document arrives as the Pentagon has requested nearly $18 billion in research funds for the 2024 budget–an ask that tops last year’s request, but doesn’t compare to China’s overall spending on developing emerging technologies, which hit $450 billion in 2022.
The strategy was mandated by the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act to “articulate the science and technology priorities, goals, and investments of the Department of Defense,” make recommendations and outline a plan to identify, develop, and field emerging technologies. The strategy covers everything, from the workforce and personnel needs to upgrading infrastructure such as testing labs and digital technology infrastructure.
The documents echoes the sentiments of defense leaders for many years. “[W]We now have a strategic rival in China with cutting edge research and development, and the willingness to challenge a stable international system.” the document says. “The need for change is real and urgent.”
The strategy highlights the 14 critical technology areas Heidi Shyu, the defense undersecretary for research and engineering, announced last year.
But Kollars said the Pentagon is most concerned with spending more for analysis and simulation technologies.
“What is particularly important to the building at this point is ensuring that we have the investments in modeling and simulation, rigorous analysis. Kollars stated that all of these elements will really help us determine what we need to be focusing on in terms of budgetary investment, making it much easier for us to experiment, prototype and make the transition.
“My sense is that we will continue to explore through pilot programs to look for successful models and pathways to include with our partners in acquisition and sustainment and all across the DOD. The strategy itself is meant to be a messaging document to say that this is where we will continue to put additional effort.”
The Pentagon is expected to release an implementation plan for the strategy and brief Congress in the next 90 days. It wasn’t clear whether the planning document or parts of it would be made public, but there’s plans to keep track of progress with data scientist-derived “internal metrics that are aligned to the department’s planning processes,” Kollars said.
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