WASHINGTON — The Pentagon must adapt its approach to technology to incorporate commercial developments more fluidly into defense applications, a top DoD acquisitions official said Wednesday.

Technological advances in capability shouldn't be exclusively developed in-house, Earl Wyatt, deputy assistant secretary of defense for emerging capability and prototyping told attendees of the ComDef 2015 conference, held at the National Press Club in Washington. The DoD needs to look to military applications for emerging commercial technologies or ways to repurpose them, or go outside of the defense industrial base altogether when a new technology offers a new way to solve a military problem.

"While there is clearly an emphasis in the DoD to advance the science of materials, advance the science of communications and sensors, advance the science of energetics, we will certainly have to adapt to whatever the commercial community is doing in an innovative way," Wyatt said.

Johnny Bardal, director of the Norwegian Research Establishment's air and space systems division, pointed to surveillance, targeting and training as three areas that could benefit from new, cost-effective technology.

"In general, unmanned systems technology represents a driver for cost effectiveness," he said.

Norway uses two automatic identification signals (AIS) satellites to monitor maritime traffic, providing detailed worldwide data with just two satellites that cost a combined $7.8 million to implement, he said. Standard industrial electronics are ready for space, he said, which will open surveillance and communications opportunities with military applications.

Wyatt highlighted engineered materials, quantum information science and nanotechnologies as three key technologies the DoD hopes to exploit. Advance technologies that allow constant surveillance is useful, but it can be like watching the grass grow, he said. What is more useful is technology that alerts the user when noteworthy changes occur.

"I want to know when to pay attention," he said. "Tell me when energy is being expended."

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