WASHINGTON ― The Pentagon doesn’t want to innovate alone.
Heidi Shyu, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said Monday that she has discussed the Pentagon’s research and development priorities with her counterparts in Australia, Japan, Latvia, Germany and the U.K. in an effort to establish monthly teleconferences with U.S. allies.
After the Pentagon’s first major rapid prototyping experiment in 2023, which will involve 30 projects, the plan is to expand access to the annual experiments to more allies. The experiments are mean to encourage prototyping and experimentation for joint war-fighting concepts, including “all-domain command and control” as well as “contested logistics.”
“We also plan to increase opportunities to include our allies and partners in these experiments,” she said Monday during an event at the Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute. “The first tranche of experiments that we’re doing in FY23 has three projects that are joint ― two with Australia and one with the U.K.”
Shyu last week established the U.S.– Israel Operations―Technology Working Group, which is aimed at strengthening cooperation in defense-related science and technology efforts with the Israeli Defense Ministry.
The comments come amid nervousness from some allies and the U.S. defense industry over Democratic efforts to boost domestic manufacturing by strengthening “Buy American” requirements, which apply to about a third of the $600 billion in goods and services the federal government buys each year. Legally, more than two-dozen counties are exempt.
In the fall, the U.S., Australia and the U.K. announced a partnership, dubbed AUKUS, to help Australia build a nuclear-powered submarine. But beyond undersea technologies, AUKUS is intended to spur cooperation across new and emerging areas, like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and quantum computing ― all with an eye toward trilateral interoperability.
The Pentagon’s own Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force this summer recommended greater collaboration within the National Technology Industrial Base, which facilitates research, development and production of defense-related items within the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia.
On Monday, Shyu said she also outlined the Pentagon’s tech priorities to defense firms large and small in order to guide their research and development investments. That includes trusted AI and autonomy, integrated networking of disparate systems, high-energy lasers to counter missiles, resilient space systems, affordable hypersonic weapons, and domestically sourced microelectronics.
Shyu also touted Senate-passed legislation that directs $52 billion toward domestic semiconductor manufacturing ― part of a $250 billon investment in a range of technologies. Called the “U.S. Innovation and Competition Act,” its semiconductor provisions would dovetail with Pentagon and other administration efforts meant to curb U.S. dependence on Chinese supplies.
New Pentagon positions for advanced materials and advanced computing are in a draft organizational chart for the research and engineering directorate, and Shyu said she plans to submit them this week to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks. Shyu also said she is drafting a document outlining the Pentagon’s tech development priorities.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.