WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s research and engineering chief is crafting a new strategy for investment in 14 critical technology areas, writing in a new memo that “creative application” of emerging concepts is key to maintaining an edge over adversaries.
The Feb. 1 memo, first reported by Inside Defense, does not lay out a timeline for when the strategy will be complete, but notes the work will be informed by the 2022 National Defense Strategy and structured around three pillars: Mission focus, foundation building and succeeding through teamwork.
“Successful competition requires imagining our military capability as an ever-evolving collective, not a static inventory of weapons in development or sustainment,” Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu wrote in the memo, obtained by C4ISRNET. “In many cases, effective competition benefits from sidestepping symmetric arms races and instead comes from the creative application of new concepts with emerging science and technology.”
The technologies identified in the memo ranges from “seed areas” — like quantum science, biotechnology, advanced materials and future-generation wireless technology — to commercially available capabilities such as artificial intelligence, space, microelectronics, integrated networks, renewable energy, human-machine interfaces and advanced computing and software.
The memo also highlights technology needs that are specific to the Defense Department, including hypersonic weapons, directed energy, cyber and integrated sensing.
“By focusing efforts and investments into these 14 critical technology areas, the department will accelerate transitioning key capabilities to the military services and combatant commands,” Shyu writes. “As the department’s strategy evolves and technologies change, the department will update its critical technology priorities.”
As Shyu’s office shapes its S&T strategy, it will aim to balance demand for “mission-aligned” technology — or the needs of today — with the imperative to invest in the emerging sciences. The team will work closely with combatant commands, the military services, industry and academia to make sure its strategy is responsive to current threats and challenges.
The memo also stresses the importance of transitioning technology from “invention to successful fielding.”
“This era of strategic competition demands collective cooperation,” Shyu writes. “Effective competition requires agility — in initiating new technology development, rapid experimentation in relevant mission environments and transition to the users.”
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.