The complex national security and foreign policy challenges facing America’s future will demand a continued focus on providing our men and women in uniform with a technological advantage.
For generations, we have benefited from this advantage, but it is now being challenged by potential adversaries from around the world. Across all domains -- air, land, sea, space and cyber -- our opponents are seeking to close the technological gap in U.S. military capabilities and exploit them to their advantage.
Outlook 2017: Perspectives from global thought leaders
In light of such efforts, and given the dynamic and challenging geopolitical environment, America’s technological superiority has never been more important to national security. The best way to retain that superiority is to maintain the commitment to the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy.
Since the implementation of the First and Second Offsets, other nations have exploited a global pool of emerging technologies to challenge our capabilities in important areas like cyber, precision munitions and ISR. With our leadership being threatened across all domains, our defense capabilities must continually advance and make a technological leap.
The Third Offset Strategy is led by breakthroughs in deep learning, human-machine collaboration, human-machine combat teaming, assisted human operations, and network-enabled, cyber-hardened weapons to enhance battlefield awareness and weapon capabilities. The key to success will be close collaboration among industry, academia and government to rapidly innovate and integrate the next-generation capabilities (advanced technologies) we will need to maintain superiority.
Many of these technologies will integrate artificial intelligence and autonomy with human thinking to enable our warfighters and systems to make better decisions faster than our adversaries. This is critical in accelerating the rapid comprehension of operational environments (through in-depth situational awareness) and quick assessments of potential responses and consequences. Referred to as the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) loop or cycle, an organization that can perform this cycle faster than an opponent can gain the upper hand.
These technologies provide other advantages as well. In the not-too-distant future, warfighters will be able to safely conduct their operations from extended distances. From multiple distributed positions, low-cost networked systems will complete missions autonomously, with the human operators safe from danger.
In fact, many technologies are rapidly approaching a unique juncture in the exponential acceleration curve with momentum fueled by advanced computing and unparalleled connectivity between industries and domains. New materials being engineered at the atomic levels will enable us to push the boundaries of system performance in ways we haven’t seen before. Advances in quantum technology will provide us with new phenomena to exploit in sensing, computing, communications and security.
The world is undergoing a period of rapid and accelerating technological change. So our nation must remain steadfast, and industry is at the ready to do its part. Whenever the Department of Defense has defined a capability need, our industrial base has stepped up with innovative solutions enabled by past investments in research and development. It is smart defense policy to ensure that we have the foremost technology for U.S. and allied warfighters; technology that will deter our adversaries and provide our troops with a strategic advantage as they face a dynamic and uncertain threat environment.
In other words, America has the talent and technology to give our defense systems the upgrade they need. The Third Offset Strategy has provided the vision for the future. The key will be the focus and political will of our nation and our leaders to sustain this commitment.
Thomas A. Kennedy is the chairman and CEO of Raytheon.