Energy Official Taps Innovation to Meet Security Challenges
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., May 14, 2013 After 12 years of war, innovation remains at the heart of meeting security challenges, a senior Pentagon official said during a panel discussion at the National Innovation Summit and Showcase here today.
Sharon E. Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs, outlined DOD’s innovation priorities.
“The security of this country is an enduring mission that will never go away,” Burke said. “We’re going to retain a commitment to innovation, because it is at the core of how we meet the security challenges that face this country.”
The Defense Department will take a “modernize, manage, technology surprise” approach to leveraging its capabilities with efforts to prioritize and protect key investments and technologies, Burke said.
“We have to face the world we’re in, but we also have to be building, thinking, preparing and researching for the world that we will be in,” she added.
Burke noted recent challenges in the Asia-Pacific region such as cyberattacks on the energy sector, electronic warfare, weapons of mass destruction and area denial or anti-access challenges.
“Other fighters or adversaries try to keep us out or try to control our movements,” Burke said. “You can do that sometimes with fairly cheap weapons [such as] improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades or precision munitions that could make it hard for us.”
Innovation priorities, Burke explained, involve mitigating some of these new capabilities with jamming, communications censors, means of countering weapons of mass destruction, and information warfare.
DOD, Burke said, also must assess how to modernize and extend technologies such as systems engineering and other capabilities.
Technology surprise involves human biology and behavior, image test analysis and new ways of doing business through energy, Burke said. “Those wonderful capabilities … make us a big energy consumer when you’re talking about projecting power and presence all over the world to secure our interests,” she added.
Therefore, she said, DOD officials will take a closer look at energy supply and storage, from high-efficiency renewable energy, scavenging technologies and design integration.
“We want high-efficiency propulsion in aviation [and] better engines. We want to be able to move better [with] less fuel for more results,” Burke said.
She also noted efforts to enhance contingency bases with better heating and cooling for shelters and better power distribution, all of which she said fit in well with the administration’s overall energy priorities.
“That clean energy economy is what we have to be putting our money into,” she said.
Although spending cuts will cause science and technology to take a $1 billion dollar hit over the course of the next several years, Burke said, DOD will continue building the capabilities to defend the country.
“We’re still going to be seeding the future, no matter what happens,” she said.
The cycle Pentagon officials want to see is the private sector coming up with an idea and DOD taking it to the next level, as was the case in the 1950s with nuclear power, Burke said. The intersection of military and industry is an “incredibly rewarding space” in which to be, she added.
“Anything you do, any innovation you come up with, is going to help a man or woman in uniform who’s defending this country,” Burke said. “I encourage you all to take it seriously and understand that it’s hard for a good reason: because we have to give them the very best options we can.”