On 24 February 2016, DSIAC attended a hearing of the U.S. House Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee. The subcommittee discussed some of the complex science and technology (S&T) challenges facing the Department of Defense (DoD), the growing concern about the shrinking gap between the United States’ technological edge and the advances of our adversaries, and some of the ongoing and future DoD efforts to address these issues.
In opening the hearing, which was titled “DoD FY17 S&T Programs: Defense Innovation to Create the Future Military Force,” Chairman Joe Wilson (R-SC), stated, “We can only deter these competitors and adversaries when DoD harnesses innovation and creates new capabilities for the military that will maintain and expand our tech-superiority now and into the future.” Chairman Wilson also welcomed the following witnesses to address the House members and discuss the issues with them:
- Dr. Stephen Welby, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.
- Ms. Mary Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology.
- Rear Adm. Matthias Winter, U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Research.
- Dr. David Walker, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology and Engineering.
- Dr. Arita Prabhakar, Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Dr. Welby discussed investing in young engineers and talented personnel, enhancing our asymmetric capabilities, and working with the private sector and academia. He also noted that the President’s FY17 budget submission demonstrates support for strong DoD S&T investments, and he described the initiative continued by the current Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (USD[AT&L]). This initiative, called the Better Buying Power 3.0 initiative, is principally focused on the “criticality of the research and engineering components of the acquisition community in sustaining U.S. technological superiority.” Dr. Welby also emphasized the areas using prototyping to accelerate operations assessments and adopt key technologies, as well as to support robust DoD science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) engagement.
In addition, Ms. Miller addressed the S&T race the United States is currently in with our adversaries and stated that we must be agile, adaptive, and innovative to remain dominant. Furthermore, we must identify risk early on in programs and eliminate vulnerabilities. Adm. Winter and Dr. Walker highlighted the President’s most recent budget request and identified key technological priorities, such as directed energy, autonomous vehicles, lab integration, information access, and cyber attack protection. Finally, Dr. Prabhakar discussed DARPA’s efforts in working with the S&T community, the pivotal role of making early investments in the right technology, and keys technology areas such as artificial intelligence and electronic warfare.
From the congressional side of the table, members of the subcommittee emphasized the need for Congress to be involved and visit labs and facilities. Members also expressed concern over online protection against cyber attacks from ISIS and adversary nation states, as well as the importance of avoiding redundancy and of having speedy access to information.
DSIAC is currently involved in addressing many of the issues raised by the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee. Congress plans to continue to study the issues raised at the hearing, including examining the budget and looking at the Better Buying Power 3.0 initiative in relation to the programs discussed. Likewise, DSIAC will continue to serve as a crucial data repository for the DoD, working to gather data from across the DoD and the Services, as well as to address the information redundancy, speedy access, and coordination issues identified.