Official Describes Emerging Capability, Products, Processes

By Amaani Lyle DoD News, Defense Media Activity


NEWPORT, R.I., Sept. 4, 2014 — The United States affordably maintaining its technological advantage stems from exploiting untapped functionality in systems that it already has, a Pentagon official said during a panel discussion at the Defense Innovation Days conference here yesterday.

Earl Wyatt, deputy assistant secretary of defense for emerging capability and prototyping, told defense industry leaders that advancing the “art of possibility” requires looking at innovation through two lenses -- product perspective and process perspective -- to best facilitate getting capability and new functionality to the warfighter.

“We were able to maintain our technological advantage over the Soviets not because they didn’t have the science, but because they didn’t have the production capacity that we have in this nation -- a tremendous ability to be able to produce things … quickly with high quality,” Wyatt said.

Products, he said, include microsatellites and other systems to create a communication and precision navigation environment without the added infrastructure that’s often required.

Ideas from industry

Wyatt also explained that data storage, cloud computing and fuel cell battery technology are paying significant dividends, and he encouraged industry leaders to produce additional ideas, from an unconventional perspective if necessary.

In biomedical science, Wyatt said, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working to enhance the quality of life for wounded warriors, particularly amputees. “I’m extremely proud to see how [the amputees] are more than glad to walk around in shorts to let you see their prosthesis and how well they’re able to get around effectively,” he added.

While some technologies originated with the Defense Department, many have not, so the migration of those technologies from industry has been critical, Wyatt said. Shortening the design process in a time-sensitive or cost-effective fashion is best achieved by continuing industry partnerships, seeking new ideas and modifying existing systems, he added.

Changing the cost calculus

Ultimately, Wyatt acknowledged, changing the cost calculus to equip warfighters more affordably is a challenge, but technology can mature through taking a different approach to problem solving.

“If we ask the question differently, we open up the opportunities for us to introduce something new, … and it makes it so much easier to achieve the objectives in a cost-effective fashion,” he said.

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDODNews)