Defense IT

Hagel’s 'game-changing' strategy to focus on tech, innovation

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

Faced with shrinking budgets, an unsettled global political landscape and the technological rise of potential rivals, the Pentagon is launching a program of sweeping changes designed to help it maintain a technological edge.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking over the weekend at the 2014 Reagan National Defense Forum, outlined a new Defense Innovation Initiative, which he called a “game-changing” strategy intended to better focus the Defense Department’s operations.

Hagel said the initiative will impact nearly every facet of defense operations, from business and management practices to warfighting techniques, military education and R&D into the most cutting-edge technologies. The initiative includes a Long-Range Research and Development Planning Program that will focus on developing breakthrough technologies in robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, big data and advanced manufacturing techniques such as 3-D printing.

The initiative will focus on both the short term—determining the technologies that should be developed over the next three to five years—and long term, planning for the next decade and beyond, Hagel said.

He cited a variety of factors that are influencing the new approach. Military budgets are uncertain, with sequestration possibly cutting $1 trillion from defense budgets over 10 years. China, Russia and other national and non-state actors have been on the rise while the United States has been occupied with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And technology is, compared with past decades, easy to come by. DOD will not only sharpen its own approach to operations, but work more closely with industry and academia.

“We all know that DOD no longer has exclusive access to the most cutting-edge technology or the ability to spur or control the development of new technologies the way we once did,” Hagel said, speaking to an audience of DOD and industry officials at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. “So we will actively seek proposals from the private sector, including firms and academic institutions outside DOD’s traditional orbit.”

Reforming the way the military operates will also take more than DOD, industry and academia, Hagel said, pointing a finger at Congress. DOD has operated on continuing resolutions each year since 2011, he said, “impairing our ability to plan, invest, and reform … you cannot run any institution on continuing resolutions. It will not work—especially the national security of this country.

“We need actual budgets—budgets that give us certainty and predictability—and the flexibility to make the management internal decisions about what’s required to deal with current and future threats for this country.”

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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