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World-Unique Tire Testing Capability Saves Millions for Warfighters

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, OH (AFNS) — The ability of an aircraft’s tires to endure a landing at high speeds is critical to an Air Force pilot returning to land following an operational flight.

However, predicting aircraft tire wear is a complex, time-intensive phenomenon, highly dependent on multiple variables. Historically, testers focused on the structural integrity of a tire prior to fielding and use. The ability to quickly and accurately predict tire wear remained a challenge across the logistics community – until now.

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DOD Seeks to Expand Competition, Innovation in Research

The Defense Department recently began an initiative called the Defense Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

What Is It?

DEPSCoR is all about searching underrepresented U.S. “states and territories for researchers with important contributions to [DOD”s] scientific enterprise,” said Bindu Nair, acting director of DOD”s Basic Research Office. “It”s crucial that we build a [DOD] research infrastructure that leaves no state behind.”

Nair said that institutions of higher education are especially relevant for building research capacity as they are incubators of science and engineering research and they operate under robust peer-review systems.

Why is It Important?

To avoid technological surprise and to maintain battlefield dominance against peer competitors like Russia and China, Nair said it is important for every state to be involved in cutting-edge defense research that could potentially lead to greater lethality.

How It Works    

DEPSCoR is targeting the states and territories that have received the least funding from DOD science and engineering research programs as a way to increase competition and innovation. The program is congressionally mandated and has directed over $8.5 million toward program grants this fiscal year, with more to potentially follow in coming years. DEPSCoR is also funding $3.45 million in outreach and support to help higher education institutions learn more about the program and navigate DOD”s paperwork process.

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Army Launches xTechSearch 3.0 to Continue Its Search for Next Generation Technology

The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)) is announcing the third cohort of the Army Expeditionary Technology Search – xTechSearch – to be featured at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, from 14 to 16 October 2019. xTechSearch will highlight opportunities for small businesses to collaborate with the Army to tackle the most critical Army modernization challenges.

The ASA(ALT) recognizes that the Army must enhance engagements with the entrepreneurial-funded community, small businesses, and other nontraditional defense entities by (1) understanding the spectrum of technologies being developed commercially that may benefit the Army, (2) integrating the sector of nontraditional defense entities into the Army’s science and technology (S&T) ecosystem, and (3) providing mentorship and expertise to accelerate, mature, and transition technologies of interest to the Army.

The xTechSearch program will provide resourcing to select small businesses to demonstrate proof of concept for their technologies pertaining to Army challenges.  The program will also integrate these small businesses into the Army’s S&T ecosystem by providing research opportunities with Army labs, including access to the Army’s organic intellectual and technical capital.  xTechSearch is an opportunity for businesses to pitch novel technology solutions – a new application for an existing technology or a new technology concept entirely – to the Army.  The Army will provide non-dilutive seed prizes for the small businesses to demonstrate proof of concept in an Army-relevant challenge area.

The authority of this program is 15 United States Code (USC) §3719.

Important Dates

30 April 2019:  Solicitation period opens.
13 June 2019:  Solicitation period closes 2:59 a.m. EST on 13 June
15 July 2019:  Phase II Selection Announcements
05-22 August 2019:  Phase II Technology Pitches
23 August 2019:  Phase III Selection Announcements
14-16 October 2019:  Phase III – AUSA Annual Meeting, Washington, DC
16 October 2019:  Phase IV Selection Announcements
March 2020:  Phase IV Captsone – AUSA Global Force Meeting, Huntsville, AL

Point of Contact

Mr. Daniel Coffman
ASA(ALT)
Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, Research and Technology
2800 Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA 22202
Email: usarmy.pentagon.hqda-asa-alt.mbx.xtechsearch@mail.mil

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Why Some Counties Are Powerhouses for Innovation

By the time the application window closed, Amazon had received 238 proposals from cities and regions throughout North America looking to become the second headquarters of the behemoth tech company.

Amazon invited proposals especially from places that looked a lot like its native Seattle: metro areas with more than a million people; a stable and business-friendly environment; communities that could “think big and creatively” about real estate options; and a location that would attract and retain technical talent.

In the race to attract high-tech companies, what can cities and regions do to become centers of innovation? At the moment, some places are clearly in the lead.

By my analysis of data from the U.S. Patent Office, Santa Clara County, California, is sprinting ahead of the country. Between 2000 and 2015, more than 140,000 patents were granted in Santa Clara County. That’s triple the number for second-ranked San Diego County.  [The average for all U.S. counties is only 524.]

Four other counties in California — Los Angeles, San Mateo, Alameda and Orange — make the top 10. Washington’s King County, Massachusetts’s Middlesex County, Michigan’s Oakland County and Arizona’s Maricopa County round out the list.

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Out of the Box

Air Force embraces “failing to succeed” over “succeeding to fail.” Dr. Richard Joseph, chief scientist of the Air Force, believes “failures have their seeds planted in success.”

Bureaucracies within the Air Force perpetuate what works. Yet, they often cling to ideas, systems or methods beyond the point of effectiveness – producing failure from that success.

They also tend to eliminate ideas and people that challenge the existing paradigm in order to protect what has worked in the past.

Now, the Air Force is identifying “out of the box” thinkers and removing them from a bureaucracy consumed by self-perpetuating tasks, to pursue game-changing ideas and technology.

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Commercial Accelerators and the Defense Department: A Blueprint for Collaboration

Three thousand two hundred and sixty-nine. This was the number of companies to graduate from more than 170 different accelerators across the United States and Canada in 2016. Since 2005, these short-duration programs, designed to expedite a company’s maturation, have helped their graduates secure over $19.5 billion in seed and early Series round funds.

Zero. This was the number of commercial accelerators the Department of Defense partnered with between 2005 and 2015. By last year, a few groups within the department had started to explore how these programs could be useful to national security innovation, but the interest remained limited. While private industry embraced accelerators, the department watched idly as its technological advantages eroded. The early failure to partner with commercial accelerators has resulted in a lost opportunity to shape future technologies today. Partnering with accelerators will give the Department of Defense access to emerging technologies and ideas, both early enough in their growth cycles and at a low-cost entry point. This will enable the department to connect with non-traditional defense companies and entrepreneurs, embrace risk as a means to long-term success, establish innovative resourcing avenues such as a loan program office, and mitigate foreign adversaries’ ability to secure next-generation technologies before U.S. warfighters do.

Why the Department Needs Accelerators    

The accelerator experience is an “intense, rapid, and immersive education aimed at accelerating the life cycle of young innovative companies, compressing years’ worth of learning-by-doing into just a few months.” An accelerator’s structure and technology portfolio can vary, but traditionally revolve around nurturing a selected group of companies known as a “cohort” for a fixed period. At a cohort’s initiation, accelerators traditionally provide a small amount of capital in exchange for equity. Even after a company graduates from the accelerator cohort program, the staff continues to provide direct support and guidance. A startup traditionally raises venture capital funds after graduating from the accelerator to further drive technology infusion and exponentially increase profitability. Three top accelerators alone — Y Combinator, TechStars and 500 Startups have 1,060 companies actively producing solutions within the commercial space.

Herein lies the benefit for the Department of Defense. Relationships with accelerators provide a sweet spot to enter the process late enough that a technology has moved toward commercial maturity, yet not so late that an adversary such as China would have already acquired this innovation by investing in the startup. As venture capital flows into the technology after graduating from the accelerator to expedite commercial usage, the department would have a time advantage relative to others, by already being aware of the technology’s application. For truly promising technologies, the department could provide funds to guarantee the technology’s continued maturation under the department’s oversight.

The considerably diverse technologies within accelerator portfolios can help solve national security problems. Accelerators can provide the department with technologies in the enterprise software and cyber domains; biomedical products by design; healthcare applications for the warfighter; autonomous systems and artificial intelligence for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and myriad other applications. The accelerator community has the technology the department needs to solve current and future defense challenges. All that’s missing is the relationship.

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Public Safety Tech Accelerator Debuts

ResponderXLabs, a collaboration between Amazon Web Services and Responder Corp., aims to give public safety agencies better access to the innovation pipeline and help private-sector firms more effectively deliver those innovations.

The program works with first responder agencies to find the latest public safety technologies, supporting agencies with technology needs assessments, access to grant opportunities, and help identifying solutions and streamlining adoption.

Entrepreneurs have access to best practices, federal funding resources, corporate partnerships, demo opportunities, connections to local public safety agency buyers and feedback from responders. Thirteen companies have signed on so far.

ResponderXLabs also identifies solutions so established industry participants can partner with entrepreneurs and  public safety agencies to incubate, validate and scale innovation.

In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security”s Science and Technology Directorate launched a business accelerator program to develop wearable technology for first responders.

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A FLIR for Innovation

Innovation isn’t just a matter of creating something new. Rather, it’s the process of translating an idea into goods or services that will create value for an end user. As such, innovation requires three key ingredients: the need (or, in defense acquisition terms, the requirement of the customer); people competent in the required technology; and supporting resources. The Catch-22 is that all three of these ingredients need to be present for innovation success, but each one often depends on the existence of the others.

This can be challenging for the government, where it tends to be difficult to find funding for innovative ideas when there are no perceived requirements to be fulfilled. With transformational ideas, the need is often not fully realized until after the innovation; people did not realize they “needed” a smartphone until after the iPhone was produced. For this reason, revolutionary innovations within DOD struggle to fully mature without concerted and focused efforts from all of the defense communities: research, requirements, transition and acquisition.

Despite these challenges, the Army has demonstrated its ability to generate successful innovative programs throughout the years. A prime example is the recently completed Third Generation Forward Looking Infrared (3rd Gen FLIR) program.

The first implementation of FLIR gave the Army a limited ability to detect objects on the battlefield at night. Users were able to see “glowing, moving blobs” that stood out in contrast to the background. Although detectable, these blobs were often challenging to identify. In cluttered, complex environments, distinguishing non-moving objects from the background could be difficult. These first-generation systems were large and slow and provided low-resolution images not suitable for long-range target identification.

 Third Gen FLIR was developed based on the idea that greater speed, precision and range in the targeting process could unlock the full potential of infrared imaging and would provide a transformative capability that would have cascading positive effects across the entire military well into the future. With 3rd Gen FLIR, the Army moved away from a single band (which uses only a portion of the light spectrum) to a multiband infrared imaging system, which is able to select the optimal portion of the light spectrum for identifying a variety of different targets.

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Here’s Who is Running the Pentagon’s Acquisition and Technology Offices

In an interview with Deputy Editor Aaron Mehta, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord provides an update on her office”s reorganization and the path ahead for acquisition reform.

When the Pentagon split the legacy Acquisition, Technology and Logistics office into two new organizations, it came with a massive reshuffling of personnel.

Now, eight months after the split officially happened, Under Secretary of Research and Engineering Michael Griffin and Under Secretary of Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord are still working to formulate their teams, with several key individuals confirmed or added in just the last few weeks.

Structurally, R&E differs from A&S in a notable way. Instead of having assistant secretary of defense positions — generally the level under the undersecretary and requiring congressional approval — the office is set up with “directors.” Casting those offices in that way means Griffin can quickly hire without the congressional process, something he has already taken advantage of.

Reporting directly to Griffin and his eventual deputy are seven individuals. The Defense Innovation Unit, the Pentagon’s commercial tech hub, has been taken over by former Symantec CEO Michael Brown; the Strategic Capabilities Office, which focuses on taking existing technologies and improving them, is led by longtime Griffin associate Chris Shank; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is led by Steven Walker, who previously served as the group’s deputy director; and Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves continues to lead the Missile Defense Agency.

Two other key roles have been quietly filled in recent weeks. The first, director of research and technology — the office of which oversees research areas such as cyber, microelectronics, quantum sciences, directed energy and machine learning — is being filled by Milan “Mitch” Nikolich.

The lower levels of the A&S structure are more filled out, and the two key empty leadership spots will likely be filled soon.

Both Alan Shaffer, to be Lord’s deputy, and Robert McMahon, to be assistant secretary of defense for sustainment, were voted out of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. They now await a vote in the full Senate and are not expected to encounter any opposition. However, there is a chance that any nominees could be held up by the Supreme Court fight, or simply fall by the wayside as members flee Washington ahead of the election.

Once confirmed, they will join Kevin Fahey, the ASD for acquisition, and Guy Roberts, the ASD for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense, as the chief lieutenants for Lord.

Related Links

The Honorable Ellen M. Lord, Under Secretary of Acquisition and Sustainment – Biography

Dr. Michael D. Griffin, Under Secretary of Research and Engineering – Biography

Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics

Department of Degense Research and Engineering Enterprise

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)

Missile Defense Agency (MDA)

Report to Congress Restructuring the Department of Defense  Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Organization and Chief Management Officer Organization: In Response to Section 901 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 114 – 328) , August 2017

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018

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Industry Team Takes First Place in ThunderDrone Competition

A team of four companies recently achieved victory in a contest organized by Special Operations Command to explore ways to counter enemy unmanned aerial systems.

Adversaries such as ISIS have been employing the technology extensively on the battlefield, raising alarm bells among Pentagon officials. For the past six months, SOCOM and other government partners have been leading an initiative looking at off-the-shelf solutions for thwarting enemy drones. 

The effort, known as ThunderDrone, was sponsored by the Defense Department’s Strategic Capabilities Office, the Air Force and Special Operations Command”s SOFWERX office. It concluded in mid-June, with the winning system stemming from an industry partnership that formed over the course of the project.

“Game of Drones,” the third and final rapid prototyping event for the ThunderDrone effort, took place June 18-20 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. A variety of companies presented their counter-UAS products in an outdoor demonstration for the chance to win prize money and expose their technologies to a wide range of military operators and other government users.

The winning team consisted of: Dedrone, a San Francisco-based airspace security company; Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle; Echodyne Corp., a Bellevue, Washington-based radar system company; and Squarehead Technologies, an Oslo, Norway-based security and surveillance company that focuses on acoustic sensing.

For more information on SOFWERX and ThunderDrone:

SOFWERX

SOFWERX Events

SOFWERX ThunderDrone