WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2014 —
The Defense Department is starting a long-range research and development initiative intended specifically to deliver technologies capable of providing the next generation of dominance on the battlefield, the undersecretary of defense for acquisitions, technology and logistics said today.
The study is modeled after a similar one conducted in the 1970s that ultimately led to many of the technologies being used today, Frank Kendall told an audience at the International Test and Evaluation Symposium in Crystal City, Virginia.
“It's time to kind of rethink what's going to give us dominance in the future,” he said, adding that he expects the program will inform next year’s budget cycle.
Individual technology programs have had a strategic emphasis over the years, Kendall said, but it’s time to have that same emphasis at the DoD level. “We need to think about what's going to give us the next generation of dominance on the battlefield and make sure we're focused on the things that have that potential,” he said.
The undersecretary noted the initiative will be overseen by the department’s best technical minds, including Stephen Welby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for systems engineering; Alan Shaffer, principal deputy to the assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering; Dr. Arati Prabhakar, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; and Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition.
A revolution in military affairs
The 1970s study did a thorough job, Kendall said, noting that it yielded the idea for smart munitions and smart seekers for missile defense systems.
“With one or two exceptions, the technologies that were identified as the ones we should be focusing on were pursued and were pursued successfully,” he added. “It did the same thing, basically, in communications and in [the] electronic warfare side of communications in terms of protecting data links and so on.”
Kendall credited the initiative with “sowing the seeds” for today’s capabilities and revolutionized the efficiency of battlefield performance -- meaning fewer troops were needed to meet particular objectives.
This new efficiency was demonstrated dramatically in the first Gulf War, he said.
“We had a suite of things that included stealth -- and even the classified version of this study doesn't talk about stealth, because at the time, it was completely under wraps -- but smart munitions, wide-area sensors, networking and stealth combined are … the revolution that we unleashed on the world in the first Gulf War,” Kendall said.
The world was watching
Other countries took note of the effect technology had on the battlefields of Kuwait, he said.
“We were expected to have about 10,000 casualties in the first Gulf War and we had a few hundred. … We demonstrated the ability to take out a relatively modern conventional force very, very efficiently, very, very quickly,” Kendall said. “Nobody watched that more than the Chinese.”
Russia was watching, too, the undersecretary noted. A lot of theories were generated about what the quick victory and the successful employment of the new technologies portended, he said.
“We have ridden that set of capabilities ever since,” Kendall said. “We used it in Serbia, very effectively. We used it when we went into Afghanistan, went into Iraq, used it in Libya, we're using it right now. But a lot of time has gone by since 1991, and people have had a chance to respond. They've also had a chance to build similar capabilities.”
Nations are building smarter weapons, the undersecretary said, and those weapons are proliferating around the world.
“Nobody has a monopoly on technology,” Kendall said. “It never stands still. And once you've seen that someone else has solved the problem and knows how to do something, it's not hard for you to do the same thing as well.”
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)