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Work Explains Strategy Behind Innovation Initiative

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2014 — The Defense Innovation Initiative will help to develop more innovative leaders and identify new operational concepts, but sequestration is still “a problem we need to address as a nation,” Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said yesterday.

Work discussed the new initiative on Gannett's "DefenseNews With Vago Muradian" program.

Echoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s announcement last week, Work compared elements of the innovation initiative with the department’s first two “offset” strategies, which began in the 1970s.

“The United States has never, since the end of World War II, tried to match our potential adversaries tank for tank, airplane for airplane, person for person, missile for missile,” Work said. “We have always sought an offset.”

Sequestration Limits DoD’s Freedom of Action

Generally, that strategy has been based around people, technology, and then-new operational concepts, Work said.

“Regardless of the budget would be, we would want to do this,” he added. “But under sequestration, our freedom of action is really going to be limited.”

The threat of sequestration, with its nearly $1 trillion in potential spending cuts, was a central topic in Work’s interview with Muradian.

“The president’s been very clear,” Work said. “The national security of the United States is not well served by sequestration. We just have to keep pointing out that if you want a budget-driven strategy, go to sequestration. If you want us to have a strategy that’s good for the nation, then go more with the president’s budget.”

In the memorandum that established the initiative, Hagel noted that “downward fiscal pressure will constrain the way we have traditionally addressed threats.” That pressure will demand a more innovative and agile defense enterprise, the memo said.

Most Important Aspect is People

Work noted that the initiative has five key aspects, but emphasized that the initiative isn’t all about technology. “The first and most important thing is about our people,” he said.

Work discussed the other elements of the departmentwide effort, including the reinvigoration of wargaming, the creation of a long-range research and development program and an increased focus on making DoD business practices more innovative. “If you have more budget top room, you can make more bets and see which one plays out,” he said. “At sequestration, you just simply can’t.”

The deputy secretary made it clear that a budget-driven strategy is not ideal, but he said it’s what will happen if sequestration continues. Unless Congress acts to change the law, sequestration spending cuts resume in fiscal year 2015, which begins Oct. 1.

The innovation initiative is timely, despite budget uncertainty, Work said. He referenced the example of the department’s second offset strategy, which remained in place through several presidential administrations and provided an operational advantage for four decades.

“What we can do in the next two years [of this administration] is kind of set the course,” Work said. “Once you get the strategy right, they generally go across administrations and over time.”

(Follow Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond on Twitter: @RichmondDoDNews)