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DOD's Engineering Focus Is on Cutting-Edge Approaches, Talent Diversity

Recruiting the next generation of engineers to tackle complex problems and provide solutions for the warfighter is a Defense Department imperative, said Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, at a virtual DOD Engineer's Week event.

Sailors gather around some machinery.
Training Time
Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn conduct an engineering training team drill in the South China Sea, Feb. 13, 2024.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Stack
VIRIN: 240213-N-YS413-1130
A sailor looks into a microscope.
Taking a Look
A sailor analyzes components of a circuit board aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence in the Philippine Sea, Feb. 8, 2024.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Tristan Cookson
VIRIN: 240208-N-CD319-1011
The department recognizes the critical importance of nurturing the next generation of engineers to deal with challenges, such as in quantum computing, artificial intelligence and hypersonics, Shyu said today.

Engineering as a discipline embodies innovation, problem solving and commitment to advancing society. Within the department, engineers are at the forefront of addressing complex challenges that are crucial for the nation's security and prosperity, Shyu said. 

"National service holds a special place for us. It represents a call to duty, a commitment to something greater than oneself. It is about dedicating one's skills and talents to serve and protect our country, ensuring the safety and well-being of our fellow citizens," she said. 

DOD is actively addressing recruitment initiatives in the science, technology, engineering and math fields with scholarship and fellowship programs, including universities with large minority populations, she said.

"The department ensures that opportunities are extended to individuals from all walks of life," Shyu said. "This commitment not only enriches the talent pool, but also ensures a broad spectrum of perspectives in addressing complex challenges." 

Engineers aren't just problem solvers; they're the architects of a more inclusive and diverse future, she said.

An airman looks up from engine housing.
Engine Check
Air Force Master Sgt. Teresa Villa changes an engine on a KC-135T Stratotanker aircraft engine housing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Feb. 6, 2024. Villa is a KC-135T crew chief with the 191st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron of the Michigan Air National Guard.
Photo By: Tom Demerly, Air Force
VIRIN: 240206-Z-TX327-2018

Shyu mentioned two DOD engineering approaches to problem solving: digital engineering and modular open systems approach, known as MOSA.

Digital engineering for global threats is critical in the ever-evolving landscape of global threats, she said.

The department's digital engineering focus takes a transformative approach, integrating digital computing, modeling and analytics into an interconnected, model-based environment, she said.

Digital engineering is not only a technical evolution. It's also a fundamental change in how DOD executes engineering projects. It facilitates communication of systems requirements, enables virtual testing across a broader spectrum, and supports 3D manufacturing and harnessing the power of predictive maintenance, she said.

DOD's transition from traditional, paper-based processes to a more interconnected digital environment places it at the forefront of technological innovation.

Another component of DOD's engineering strategy is MOSA.  

MOSA represents more than just an adoption of new technologies. It embodies a commitment to openness, modularity and interoperability. MOSA represents a groundbreaking shift in the way DOD designs, develops and evolves defense systems, Shyu said. 

Gone are the days of legacy proprietary solutions that limited the ability to integrate cutting-edge technologies without making extensive modifications, she said.

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