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Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen H. Hicks at Harvard Business School's Technology and National Security Conference (Pre-Recorded) (As Delivered)

Thank you for that introduction.  It is great to be joining Harvard Business School’s “Technology and National Security Conference.” I want to offer a special thank you to HBS’s Aerospace Club and the MIT Defense Tech Club for hosting this conference.  

This morning, I would like to speak to you about the external threats the Department faces, some internal challenges we have, and how we are leveraging innovation and technology to tackle these problems. 

If you read the news or scroll through virtually any social media platform, you know that the United States faces a number of security challenges today.

Foremost on our minds are the people of Ukraine.  Russia is posing an acute threat to the world order, with its unprovoked invasion and brutal tactics. 

But even as we confront Russia’s activities, the National Defense Strategy names the People’s Republic of China as our most consequential strategic competitor.  The PRC has the military, technological, and economic potential to challenge the international system and America’s interests within it for decades.

We confront other persistent threats too, including those emanating from North Korea, Iran, and violent extremist organizations.  

Defense innovation – bringing concepts, technology, and tactics together to solve military problems – is vital to meeting this challenge set.  Our just-released Fiscal Year 2023 budget request does just that.    

At the Department of Defense, much of the warfighter’s toolkit is cultivated through what we call “research, development, test, and evaluation,” or RDT&E.  To ensure that we’re developing the tools and capabilities that our women and men in uniform need for the future, we are requesting Congress invest more than $130 billion dollars in RDT&E – that’s the largest investment ever in this category.  

We seek to invest almost $28 billion in space capability, like resilient space architectures and enhanced command-and-control systems.  

We also request over $11 billion dollars for cyberspace activities.  This will protect DoD information systems from cyberattacks, help defend our critical infrastructure, and enhance our cyber toolkit – and do so within the boundaries of the rule of law and existing legal frameworks.  

And we also requested funding for a number of efforts pertaining to artificial intelligence, including establishing the Office of the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer.  This position will be focused on speed – and ensuring that we have the right processes and organization in place to leverage AI and data.  This helps the department advance a host of different warfighting concepts and capabilities.  

Beyond meeting external challenges, leveraging technology and innovation also helps DoD manage our own internal processes.  

With a workforce of over 2.9 million people operating at roughly 4,800 sites across 160 countries – by any measure – DoD is a large and complex entity.  In fact, almost any job or career track that exists in the private sector probably also exists at the Department of Defense.  

To manage an organization of this size, we are aggressively pursuing digital and analytically-driven solutions.   

As an example – at DoD, we know that we need to do our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.  To evaluate what options we have, we need to better understand how and where we use energy. 

So we’re working to establish data links to provide enterprise-wide visibility of real-time or near real-time demand for electricity, natural gas, and water.  Amazingly, we do not have that capability today.  So we are now doing so, down to the individual installations and operational platforms. 

This will enable us to better measure and manage energy use – to baseline where we are and to track our progress.

Not only will this generate greater energy efficiency and combat climate change – it will also lower costs and make our forces more agile in the field.  

Another example –we’ve been rolling out a new federal electronic health record at the Department of Defense called MHS GENESIS.  It is currently deployed to over 1,300 DoD locations with approximately 95,000 active users to date.    

MHS GENESIS replaces multiple legacy electronic health records systems.  
Aside from lowering costs, it improves access of health information not only across the military, but also the Department of Veterans affairs and other non-military healthcare organizations. 

It offers greater flexibility and adaptability in responding to events such as pandemics and natural disasters.  It also provides near-real-time clinical decision support – including the aggregation of patient data.   

Whether supporting our warfighters in today’s challenging threat environment, or creating efficiencies in the department, DoD needs highly skilled military and civilian workforces.  We need individuals to support rapidly-evolving areas from nanotechnology to robotics.  And we need people with digital skillsets, including data scientists, software developers, and machine learning experts.    

Beyond the talent, the Department is also looking for ways to work alongside American businesses.  The U.S. private sector is undoubtedly one of our greatest comparative advantages.  If DoD is to successfully innovate, we’re going to need to work with commercial companies and private research entities.  

We know that working with the Department can be difficult and often times frustrating.  DoD has a multitude of processes and requirements that can be onerous.  We know this, and are taking steps to reduce the barriers to working with us. 

As an example, the Department is leveraging different acquisition authorities that provide us the flexibility to both adopt and incorporate commercial best practices – as well as to access innovative companies that we may not have traditionally worked with in the past.  

Additionally, we’re focused on expanding our work with small businesses, who are essential to our national security.  So we are increasing education and training opportunities at DoD Procurement Technical Assistance Centers – which are located around the United States.  We are also encouraging small businesses to sign-up for our Mentor – Protégé Program.  And we look to our Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs to spur new capabilities.       

Whether you have the skillset the Department is looking for, or you’re a company that wants to work alongside the Department, we just launched a new website to help you navigate the Department of Defense –  This page is meant to be a one-stop shop that contains links to different career paths, internships, and opportunities for individuals and a map of the DoD ecosystem for companies who are interested in the innovative work that we do.  Our goal is to provide those looking to work with, and for, the Department the information you need – and in true DevOps fashion, our team is looking for your user feedback.  

Events like this conference are incredibly important to our national security.  Cross-cutting discussions, with viewpoints from both U.S. government officials as well as representatives from the private sector and academia, not only build understanding and trust, but hopefully lead to better outcomes for all. 

Again, thank you to HBS’s Aerospace Club and the MIT Defense Tech Club for hosting.  I hope that you enjoy the rest of the conference.