Updated 4/5/16 to reflect additional comments from the Pentagon.
WASHINGTON —The Pentagon's Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) is looking for industry feedback on repurposing existing technologies in order to plug short-term capability gaps.
William Roper, director of the SCO team, told reporters Monday that he is "looking forward" to getting more industry feedback in the future and will be putting a Broad Area Announcement out on the FedBizOps contracting website in about a month, in order to open his team up to new ideas from industry that can help with the SCO's specialized mission.
"We're looking for things we can go put our hands on today, go test today, and we need a strategic aspect of the capability," Roper said, adding he is looking for tech that can "create doubt" and "impose costs" on a future adversary.
In keeping with the SCO's mission, Roper said he wants to see "near-term" and "unusual applications" of existing systems, rather than brand new technologies that may take years to develop.
"If it's raising the technology readiness level of a system from low-to-high, there are lots of places to go pitch those systems, but not SCO," he said. "If it is an incremental gain it could be important for a service, but not something a service needs us to help with. They need us to help with the leap ahead, skip the walk phase, go-directly-to-run possibility surprises. So we told industry that's what we're looking for and we're looking forward to getting feedback."
In other words, the SCO is looking for new concepts where the application is high risk, but the component technologies are mature.
The SCO was a largely unknown group for most of its three-and-a-half-year existence, but was pushed into the limelight during a Feb. 2 budget preview speech by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
Carter highlighted several programs the group was working on and held it up as an example of how innovative ideas can be put into place right now, even as the department pursuesd the "Third Offset" umbrella of cutting edge technologies for the future.
The SCO develops five or six concepts for repurposing existing technology every year, Roper said. Among the most notable examples that has come to light is the plan for an "Arsenal Plane," which would essentially supplement the light-armed fifth-generation fighter fleets like the F-22 and F-35. Roper also seemed particularly happy with upgrades to the SM-6 ship-launched missile, which turned the defensive weapon into an offensive one.
Roper acknowledged the extra attention his team now has to deal with, and said there are both positives and challenges that come with it.
One of the positives is that industry is now more aware of the group and more forthcoming with ideas, something crucial for the group given its goal of repurposing existing commercial and military technology quickly to fill capability gaps.
"I think we will get better influx from the broader commercial world now that they understand the mission," Roper said, adding that "the near-term aspect of what we do we may get better input from the defense department primes and other contractors who are building things for us who say 'if I can find something else that I can do with that, there is a need for it, and I know who to go talk to about it.' I think that's the positive side. "
Roper later contacted Defense News to clarify that the SCO is interested to hear from both defense and commercial companies.
On the negative side, he said, those with knowledge of SCO programs now need to be very careful about what they do and don't discuss, striking a "balance" between keeping certain technologies a secret and letting potential adversaries know about new programs as part of a deterrent effect.