The Defense Department enjoys a technological advantage over potential adversaries, said Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, who spoke yesterday at a McAleese-sponsored event in Washington, D.C.
However, the wide variety of commercial product that could be used by China and other adversaries for military applications, combined with a lax sense of urgency in the U.S., could challenge DOD's supremacy in the future, she said.
R&E, working closely with the joint staff and services, looks at the most critical capabilities needed to fight in a high-end war, she said.
Also, R&E looks to industry to see if there are commercial applications that DOD can utilize, she said.
"We're focusing on things like resilience, communication, joint command and control," she said. Modeling and simulation inform these efforts and speeds things along.
Collaboration in this endeavor with allies and partners, as well as non-traditional companies is also important, she added.
"Literally, a big chunk of my time is focused on international engagement, what we can do to help each other … to co-develop capability or accelerate delivery of systems," she said.
The department is collaborating across innovation centers such as AFWERX, which is part of the Air Force Research Laboratory; NavalX, which delivers solutions to the Navy and Marine Corps; and SOFWERX, an innovation factory of U.S. Special Operations Command, along with others.
Regional laboratories, she said, are focused on such things as microelectronics, space-adaptive communications and laser communications.
Growing the science and technology workforce is another priority, she said. The department is funding science, technology, engineering and math scholarships from the four-year to PhD levels, with a stipulation to serve once the degree is bestowed.
Programs for high school STEM camps are also in place, she added, with tens of thousands of students enrolled.