During a hearing in the House committee, defense officials discussed the need for more advanced research, development and deployment of emerging technologies in the agency as national security evolves into an international race to see which nations may be the first to integrate. advanced technology in its defense forces.
Witnesses from the agency’s offices testified about DOD’s budget needs before the Armed Forces Subcommittee of the House of Representatives on Cyber, Innovative Technologies and Information Systems on Thursday.
The main priority for the agency is the modernization of the physical infrastructure in the defense laboratories.
“The first thing I would do is help you get more money from MILCON to help with our laboratory and test infrastructure,” said Heidi Shu, Deputy Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “I think this piece is absolutely critical for us to invest additional funding.
Shyu emphasized the particular need for naval laboratories to modernize their electromagnetic and cybersecurity countermeasures to better assess the emerging digital threats facing networks today. She estimates that this will require about $ 500 million in federal funding.
Subcommittee Chairman Jim Langevin, DR.I., said he was surprised by the lack of funding received by DOD from Congress in his previous budget.
“I have to say that it is shocking that we are facing a huge backlog in laboratory investment, more than $ 5.7 billion in the last report to Congress,” he said. “These challenges affect not only the pace and scope of innovation, but also our ability to attract and retain the best talent we depend on.”
Hiring and retaining a strong workforce also relies on the need for more advanced infrastructure. Witness Paul Mann, acting Assistant Secretary-General of the Navy for Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation, said state-of-the-art facilities are a key feature of STEM experts when it comes to choosing a job.
“While balancing all investments in S&T [science and technology] portfolio, attracting the best and brightest in the world, bringing here and developing their talent for decades. We want them to enjoy working in modern facilities. ” Said Mann.
He also added that competition with private sector companies and other public agencies for modern laboratories and equipment is “always a challenge” and that updated laboratories are the key to successful military projects.
“The labs where these professionals can accomplish their mission will go a long way in maintaining our enduring advantage,” Mann said.
Shu explained that defense research looks at technologies, including biotechnology, modern materials, quantum science and hypersound. She added that the agency also spends much of its budget funding on cyber technology, but it is difficult for contracting manufacturers to speed up prototype production due to a lack of funding in the acquisition process.
“Some companies can get venture capital money to help, some companies can’t do that because they can build a component that goes into the system, right?” So they are looking for capital, “Shu said. “We are in the process of trying to figure out how to help them make the transition.”
Defense is working on the internal cultivation of a strategic capital development program and its dissemination to small companies contracted with the agency to help fund research and prototyping. Shu said it would start first within the Air Force and ideally go through the entire Ministry of Defense.
“It really helps small businesses get a lot more funding to keep developing prototypes and maturing in the face,” she said. “They can pass. So we are currently in the process of setting up and building this office. ”
Within the Air Force leadership, Kristen Baldwin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology and Engineering, cites an internal Air Force study that outlines the bureaucratic hurdles facing public procurement and defense acquisition.
“It’s not just about focusing on attracting these small businesses and investing in innovation, but rather the funding needed to move from an S&T small business contract to a record program,” she said. “I would also say that it is also commented that the acquisition process is an interrupted process.”
An improved acquisition process would ideally support small producers to work with DOD, develop full-fledged technology devices, and bridge the “death valley” between concept and prototypes.
“We have a set of key recommendations,” Baldwin said of the BBC study. “Number one is financing the technological transition to the Death Valley.