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Science, Technology Investments to Focus on Innovation, Industry

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., April 24, 2013 – To meet the Defense Department’s 21st century security objectives, its science and technology funding will focus on innovation and industry, the acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering said here today.

In remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 14th annual science and engineering technology conference, Alan Shaffer said mitigation, affordability and surprise technology lay the foundation for the DOD’s science and technology commitments.

Shaffer noted a rise in the commons known as technology enablers that include space, cyberspace and the oceans. “These are the places that no one owns and yet enable all our operational systems,” he said.

In electronic warfare, Shaffer explained, the United States has enjoyed pre-eminent electronic detection systems with its allies, but now must maintain balance in the electromagnetic spectrum for its systems to operate.

“Increasingly, a space communications layer is vulnerable to being jammed,” he said. “Space is contested. Space is no longer assured -- nobody owns cyber, but it certainly will [affect] how we’re thinking about the world.”

In cyberspace, research and resilience of data are key, Shaffer said. “We need robustness and … the ability to operate through any type of cyberattack,” he added.

And considering cyberspace as a science is critical, he said.

“I can go out and measure warheads,” Shaffer said. “How do you measure cyber as to whether or not you’re improving?” DOD also must continue countering weapons of mass destruction through sensors, network analytics, data integration and predictive tools, he told the audience.

Developing new tools and more prototyping within DOD and throughout industry are important to affordability, Shaffer said.

“Right now, it [takes] roughly 20 years to field a new weapon system,” he noted. “The requirement cycle cannot envision where you’re going to be in that period of time.” The services are using a program called Engineered Resilient Systems, which develops predictive tools to execute an open system design and perform thousands of system trades with larger, more complex systems within a computer, Shaffer said.

Typically, he explained, technology investment involves money and a lot of time in early basic research before encountering a concept, then learning about a capability that grows rapidly before flattening out.

“I don’t want to continue to have to invest in older, mature technologies where we flattened out some,” Shaffer said. “I want to create surprise for other folks. That means the DOD must continue to invest in a lot of concepts in basic research, look for the maturation, and then put some big bets behind things to hit the high part of the growth curve.”

DOD science and technology also will encompass human systems, he said, from realistic and immersive training to better man-machine interface.

Analysts will further research how humans can better interface with platforms, and how DOD can reduce time for a human to better operate a system, he added.

 

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Alan Shaffer

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