LONDON — Pentagon leaders, already worried about the emerging technologies that will shape the next generation of war, have reorganized their leadership structure to emphasize quantum science, artificial intelligence and directed energy, Defense News has learned.
The new effort is a major restructuring for the two Pentagon offices that determine how the Department of Defense buys and develops weapon systems. Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan approved the changes in a July 13 memo, obtained by Defense News.
The 17-page document lays out the organizational charts for the offices of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, as well their responsibilities. The two offices were created Feb. 1, when Congress required the former Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) office to be divided. A potential organization chart was published in August, but the new document features significant changes, particularly on the R&E side.
Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza confirmed that Shanahan’s memorandum has been provided to Congress, as well as briefed to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
“USD R&E and USD A&S have been briefing the Congress throughout the reorganization process and will continue to do so. We have long said that this process will take time to complete. The signing of this memorandum is just one step in the reorganization,” Baldanza told Defense News.
Here’s how the two offices will operate:
Research and Engineering
The research and engineering office is tasked with focusing on the future, or as the memo puts it, serve “as the chief technical officer of the Department with the mission of advancing technology and innovation.”
The new plan includes a deputy undersecretary who reports directly to Griffin and who oversees all other offices reporting to the deputy. The setup does not include assistant secretary or deputy assistant secretary jobs but instead, all offices are marked as directorates.
The individual offices reporting directly to the deputy include the Pentagon’s DIUx commercial tech hub, the Strategic Capabilities Office, the Strategic Intelligence Analysis Cell, the Missile Defense Agency, and DARPA. The memo calls for two “Directors of Defense Research & Engineering," Research & Technology and Advanced Capabilities.
Baldanza confirmed that those two offices are equivelent to assistnat secretary levels, but said they do not need to be confirmed by the Senate.
The breakdown reflects the R&E focus on high-end technologies. There are five assistant directors listed under the Defense Research and Engineering office – microelectronics, cyber, quantum science, directed energy and machine learning. Under the Advanced Capabilities office, there are four assistant directors – networked C3, space, autonomy and hypersonics.
In this setup, it appears Griffin’s job will be to serve as an overseer on programs to ensure they are not outdated by the time they come to fruition, and that long-term challenges and capability needs are understood.
Under the memo guidance, Griffin is to provide “technical risk assessments” and advise the Secretary of Defense on potential future concerns, including interoperability and cyber capability throughout the lifecycle of the program before any approval of a Milestone A or Milestone B decision.
When requested, the office will provide an independent estimate of whether the program correctly “anticipates the evolution of capabilities to meet the changing threats, technology insertion, and interoperability and be fielded when needed, prior to the obligation of funds for technology development, systems development, or production.”
Acquisition and Sustainment
This office continues to have the bulk of the authorities that were issued to AT&L. As with previous hierarchies, there are three assistant secretary roles – acquisition, sustainment and nuclear/chem/bio.
However, the various sub-offices in those three chains have been changed, most notably for Kevin Fahey, the ASD for acquisition. He told reporters July 16 that his office will be focused on “enablers,” and the new offices listed appear to trend in that direction.
As with R&E, the new hierarch calls for a deputy undersecretary who reports to Lord, with all other offices reporting to the deputy.
Another significant change since an August organizational tree: the deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy had been listed as reporting to the assistant secretary for acquisition. Now, that office reports directly to the deputy undersecretary of defense, in a move that reflects the importance of the industrial base to the Pentagon.
The office will also be renamed from its current “Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy” title to just Industrial Base, with the manufacturing aspect moving over to R&E. In addition, the small business office will now report to the Industrial Base office.
Eric Chewning, who holds that role, told reporters July 16 that his office would change its direction to ensure a greater focus on industrial base issues.
“There’s a real need to get back to what I’ll call a real industrial policy capability within the Pentagon, to address the sorts of problems that we know we’re going to face going forward,” Chewning said.
In addition, the current assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment appears to have disappeared from the chart, with the three DASDs reporting up to that office now reporting to the ASD for sustainment.
There are four director-level positions that report to the deputy – Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, Special Programs, Strategy, Data and Design and International Cooperation.
There had been some question about whether International Cooperation would end up on the R&E side in some capacity, but the authorities spelled out in the document specify that Lord received oversight of international technology development, with the memo ordering that A&S work with the undersecretary for policy to establish and manage “the cooperative R&D program, and promote the establishment of mutually beneficial international cooperative R&D programs consistent with national security considerations.” It also directs A&S to oversee international technology work with NATO.
In terms of authorities and missions, those listed line up with what has largely been expected- A&S will have oversight on large, existing issues. One that appears to be new: ordering A&S to establish and maintain the “DoD management and administrative structure for Modeling and Simulation (M&S),” as well as leading an executive council on M&S, which involves developing “policies, plans, and programs to coordinate, harmonize, and rationalize DoD M&S, including the DoD Modeling and Simulation Master Plan and Investment Plans.”
Interestingly, the memo specifically calls out a role for the A&S structure to combat China on the industrial front.
“In support of [National Defense Strategy] objectives, conducting geo-economic analysis and assessments to inform the development of industrial policies to maximize U.S. competitive advantage in an era of great power competition and counter strategies from competitor nations such as China,” it read.
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.