WASHINGTON — In an era of shrinking federal investment in research and development, heightened cooperation is needed to stimulate innovation in the national security realm, Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush said Tuesday.
Commercial innovation, while valuable, cannot substitute for concerted defense R&D spending, largely because of the different business models in the private sector, he said.
"Commercial technology, quite correctly, follows the money wherever it leads," he said. If it stops being profitable, investment is discontinued. Additionally, there is little interest in developing stealth technology, or the ability to jam the radar of a hostile aircraft, or offensive cyber capabilities or advanced missiles in the commercial sphere, he said.
Higher education in the US is a magnet throughout the world, attracting many of the best and brightest STEM minds to study in the United States, he said.
"We've got to make sure that we value that asset in the US," he said.
But with the budget cuts to education funding under sequestration, the pipeline of qualified talent to advance innovation is running the risk of drying up, he said.
Sequestration "is having a devastating impact on R&D, on our research universities, and on the faculty," he said.
The ability to take technology and make it operational in the hands of the American war fighter has atrophied since the end of the Cold War, and particularly during the US' two ground wars in the Middle East, she said.
While the branches of the military are trying to improve their communication and coordination on R&D, the better goal is to deliver on the mission and change national security outcomes, she said.
Bush added that he is encouraged by DoD acquisitions chief Frank Kendall's recent statements that the Pentagon needs to do a better job of communicating with contractors and articulating its needs so that effort isn't wasted on programs that are not useful.
"I'm encouraged because I see something happening in our innovation communities: the recognition of the power of partnerships," Bush said. "To me, R&D is a partnership issue, and it's clear that Frank embraces the partnership model."