DoD Seeks Future Technology Via Development Plan

WASHINGTON, DC. -- The Defense Department seeks technology and innovative ideas as part of its Long Range Research Development Plan within the Defense Innovation Initiative, a broad effort that examines future capabilities, dominance and strategy, a senior DoD official said Nov. 24.

The newly-released LRRDP Request for Information will provide a way for DoD technology scouts to collaborate with industry, academia, and the general public to explore topics and ideas to better identify the "art of the possible," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering Stephen P. Welby.

"We're interested in getting the broadest set of folks, the brightest minds we can find, to come help us on this effort," Welby said. "We're hoping that by casting this wide net, we'll be able to harness the creativity and innovation going on in the broader ecosystem and help us think about the future department in a new way."

Domains of Interest

Specific military domains of interest, he said, include space, undersea technologies, affordable protective systems against precision-guided munitions threats, air dominance and strike capability possibilities, ecologically and biologically inspired ideas and human-computer interaction.

"We expect the topics and ideas that come back will inform our science and technology planning and we're mining that whole space," Welby said.

He described a "small, agile team" of bright government officials who've been charged to engage industry, academia, not-for-profits, small businesses and the general public to help the department explore future possibilities. Inputs will also be accepted from allies and international partners who may have unique perspectives or contributions to the effort.

Officials expect the seven-month study to yield results in time to brief the defense secretary by mid-2015 and influence future budget and offset technology decisions, Welby said.

DoD's Future

"The key opportunity out of this whole effort is to start a discussion," he said. "We're asking questions about people, business practices, but particularly ... about technology, what we need to drive the future of the department."

Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work will oversee the program as part of the overall effort to explore how technology can be incorporated with future DoD strategy and capabilities.

Pentagon officials noted a justified urgency in reviewing the future systems and architectures to maintain dominance over competing investments around the globe.

"There is no better time to look at the long-range strategy we're taking to invest in technologies that will make a difference," Welby said.

Capability Breakthrough in the 1980s

During the 1980s, Welby said, DoD found itself facing the Soviets and recognized there was a better way to confront the issue rather than a "tank-versus-tank" military buildup.

"The big breakthrough in that time period was introduction of precision weapons ... and technology that allowed us to replace quantity with very precise technology-driven capabilities," Welby said.

That, he said, has been the key driver in the way the nation has conducted itself in the national security environment for more than 40 years.

"People have understood our playbook," Welby said. "Adversaries are now building systems that look to blunt particular United States' advantages and we'd like to revisit that."

Efforts in 1973 included the original Long-Range Research and Development Plan, which ushered in nascent digital technologies, early iterations of global positioning systems and the beginnings of the future Internet.

Today, he said, DoD faces challenges posed by globalization and technologies driven by both the military and commercial sectors.

"We're now asking broader questions like, 'How does the United States maintain its ... lead against the entire path of technology and innovation going on globally?'" Welby said.

Maintaining a compelling U.S. advantage in technology is critical, he said.

DoD's long-range plan, Welby said, will focus on "near-peer competitors," state actors and a broader scope of conventional deterrence, namely key technologies that will enable the protection of U.S. interests and freedom of movement, and deter future aggression into the 2025 timeframe.