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Modernization of Armed Forces a Collaborative Effort, Official Says

The Defense Department, in collaboration with academia, industry, allies and partners, is developing cutting-edge technology to ensure the warfighter has the upper edge on the battlefield. 

Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, provided virtual opening remarks at the Inaugural Defense Department Basic Research Conference in Arlington, Virginia.  

A soldier operates a military drone.
Drone Launch
Army Pfc. Benjamin Sargent, assigned to 82nd Airborne Division, prepares a multi-mission payload Unmanned Aerial System for launch during Project Convergence at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., Oct. 26, 2021.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Marita Schwab
VIRIN: 211026-A-JT723-0002

The fiscal year 2022 National Defense Strategy sets out three main themes, she said.  

The first theme is integrated deterrence. Research and engineering, or R&E, is working to ensure that the joint force can operate seamlessly across all domains — air, land, sea, cyber and space — and in concert with allies and partners, she said.  

R&E is advancing several international partnerships, including with Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel and NATO, she said.  

"Our foreign comparative test program also promotes coalition interoperability and strengthens our shared defense industrial base. Our mission engineering division is using modeling and simulation to assess joint capability gaps, and how we're integrating critical enabling technologies into mission architectures," Shyu said.  

A graphic shows a jet streaking through the sky.
Hypersonic Vehicle
An artist's rendering depicts a hypersonic vehicle.
Photo By: NASA's Lewis Research Center
VIRIN: 090828-O-ZZ999-001M

The second theme is campaigning. This relies upon R&E's efforts to work with partners across the interagency, including the Departments of Treasury and Commerce, the State Department and the Small Business Administration, she said.   

The Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve program has embarked on a continuous campaign of joint experimentation to close the gaps in joint warfighting capability, she said. These joint experiments are scenario-based and will be conducted in six-month cycles starting next year.  

This experimentation, she said, will involve 14 critical technology areas for the warfighter. The technology areas include biotechnology; quantum sciences; advanced materials; future G, which is beyond 5G technologies that also have a lot of commercial development, trusted artificial intelligence and autonomy; microelectronics; space technology; renewable energy; integrated network; systems of systems; advanced computing and software; human-machine interfaces; hypersonics; direct energy; and integrated sensing and cyber.  

The third theme is building enduring advantages, Shyu said. R&E is working to identify reforms to accelerate the development and acquisition of critical technologies and is making necessary investments to the workforce.   

A team uses artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Autonomous Work
The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division’s Sly Fox Mission 23 team demonstrates autonomous remote tactical engagement multi-domain intelligence swarm capabilities, in Dahlgren, VA., Aug. 7, 2018.
Photo By: John Joyce, Navy
VIRIN: 080718-N-DE005-050C

"We're supporting the future defense innovation base through initiatives to support small businesses, startups and other nontraditional companies and encouraging them to work with the DOD," she said.   

R&E's mission has three focal points:   

First, the DOD is leveraging the United States' incredible science and technology innovation community to solve the department's toughest operational and engineering challenges with cross-cutting solutions that benefit all military services, she said.  

Second, R&E is setting the foundation today to attract and build a strong talented future technical workforce that will work in modernized laboratories and test facilities, she said.   

R&E-supported university affiliated research centers and federally funded research and development centers work on cutting-edge technologies including space dynamics, system engineering, applied physics, software engineering, and geophysical detection, she said. 

An airman works on an aircraft.
Test Team
Members of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon Instrumented Measurement Vehicle 2 test team make final preparations prior to a captive-carry test flight of the prototype hypersonic weapon at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Aug. 8, 2020.
Photo By: Kyle Brasier, Air Force
VIRIN: 200808-F-DB956-0290C

"We're committed to fostering a culture that encourages innovation and risk taking. Our future depends on our STEM workforce, so we must invest in multiple talent pipelines for the defense innovation base," Shyu said. STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and math.  

Shyu mentioned that the department is also working with underrepresented talent in academia, including historically Black colleges and universities and other minority institutions.  

The third focal point is success through teamwork.   

"We're working collaboratively with partners across the technology ecosystem to strengthen our foundation. The work that's being done by our basic research office and by all of you is foundational for the continued technological dominance of the United States. Basic research is a core of what we do in research and engineering. And it's a core of every single system that we use. Collaboration is the key to creating new and novel ideas," Shyu said.  

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