WASHINGTON — With one eye always on improving capabilities, the U.S. Department of Defense is used to getting bombarded with sales pitches from industry for new technology.
But Elbridge Colby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, warned an audience Wednesday that he’s not interested in seeing “whiz-bang” technology if it doesn’t come with plausible ways for how it fits into the Pentagon’s operational concepts.
“We’re not interested in something that’s kind of a whiz-bang thing that’s not connected to a plausible deployment or not nestled within operational concepts,” Colby said. “We do want to encourage breakthrough and creative, kind of, activity and investment in technology, but it’s got to be something that we can actually use in a viable way to serve our strategic approach.”
His comments came during the Directed Energy Summit, an event that naturally brings together advocates for the potential of laser weaponry. Colby, one of the authors behind the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy, declined to go into detail about how such systems fit into his view of the Pentagon’s operational concepts, though they remain a focus area for both internal and external investments.
While noting it is important the private sector continues to develop technologies, Colby stressed that when presenting those to the Pentagon, they need to be very focused away from a “platform model” and toward explaining how these capabilities could be used to combat near-peer competitors.
“I want to really stress that everything should be circled back to what the problem statement is, what the problem definition is, which is — it is defeating the Chinese or Russian potential theories of victory,” he said.
“What that answer is, is going to be a combination of technology, combat development, doctrine, etc., etc. But we should be taking initiative. They’ve gone after our theory of victory? We should go after their theory of victory so we have a better deterrent.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.