An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks Speaks With Traveling Press at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE KATHLEEN HICKS:  OK.  So we are just finishing up our second stop here at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  Obviously, we began the day over at Oak Ridge, as we talked about before.  I think the big theme coming out of the whole day for me is really the reinforcement of the U.S. innovation ecosystem advantage, right?

We are able and we saw it in spades today to bring together research community, the government, and industry in a very problem-centric way to go after issues that are facing the warfighter and deliver results. 

And I think the two locations- a little bit different flavor in each today- in AFRL, here at Wright-Patterson, you have some problems that are really military-specific and you need a dedicated workforce focused on that with a focus of government dollars behind that.  But both are really important, right? Because so many of the problems that we're trying to solve for the warfighter are ones that also we need to solve over on the industry side as well for the commercial sector. 

So that's where the Oak Ridge example is really good.  And then we have these -- some of these specific challenges.  So on the specific challenges the focus of this afternoon was on counter directed energy weapons -- countering directed energy weapons.  And there we took some classified briefings, really good discussion about some of the capability advances that they're undertaking here at the research level that will -- are paying off and will pay off, as we look at potential adversary use and as we already know just from laser pointers at commercial aircraft, for instance, you know, already manifested use of directed energy and lasers against either civilian targets are as we look at in the military potential for their use on a more significant scale.

So really good work going on here to get after that problem set.  On -- largely on the material sciences side, and so very happy with what I saw there.  Overall, I think the emphasis throughout the day on getting more efficient, getting more effective, the clean -- sort of the clean energy theme carried throughout the day and really is reinforcing in this particular week coming as it does both the innovation ecosystem and the clean energy themes coming out of a week in which we've seen the Bipartisan Infrastructure law, theChips and Science law and the Inflation Reduction law.

So that's -- let me stop there and turn it over to you all for questions.

STAFF:  Who's first? 

DR. HICKS:  Yes.

Q:  Thank you.  I was hoping to -- I guess to the extent you can on the unclass side, can you elaborate at all on what you saw today with kind of directed energy?  We've heard a lot about laser pointers, we've -- and that's something that's been a concern, and will be a concern for some time.  But I guess the higher-end stuff, particularly things you'd see in a near-peer or peer fight.

DR. HICKS:  Yes.  So I can't really.  What I would say is we already are using some capabilities.  So we talked a little bit about that today, things that I might read, for instance, at the Pentagon, then being able to see it and how it ties into the research that they're doing here and the applications.

So for both the Air Force and for the Space Force this is a big issue area, and an area where they have invested in over time.  So that's what I would say.  I was able to see capabilities already fielded and then the potential for more capabilities down the road.

STAFF:  Brandi Vincent, Fedscoop?

Q:  Hey, thanks again for doing this.  Earlier we were speaking to several of the leadership here at the research laboratory and I asked them sort of if they had been visited by a deputy secretary before, and sort of what made this special in working with you.  They said they had not, and so that got me thinking- why is it that you've been so focused on sort of these big challenges around technology, specifically?

DR. HICKS:  Yes.  Well, first of all, it's a very big department.  So there are probably places other deputies have been that I won't make it to.  But I think the answer to your question is that in order to compete effectively where we are in the history of the world with the advance of technology happening at such a rapid clip, which of course is also happening in the military sector, where we see a country like China make incredibly rapid military advancement.  And in many of these areas that we were just talking about, directed energy being a clear one, in order for the United States to be able to defend itself, we have to be able to develop capabilities that leverage innovation that make step changes that keep us ahead of the threats.  And so it has to be part of how we look, you know, as a deputy, as how I look at the department and what we can achieve.

It's certainly fully in support of Secretary Austin's vision for the department.  His first priority is defend the nation and in that priority talks a lot about the role of modernization and innovation for achieving that defend the nation goal.  And my job is to make sure we can connect his vision to the outcomes of the department and deliver to the warfighter and to the tax payer what they expect.  So that's why.

Q:  And did you guys today talk at all about sort of challenges they're facing with laboratory infrastructure and what does that look like as a priority for you?

DR. HICKS:  We did not talk about it much today.  We talked about it a little bit at Oak Ridge, but it is an issue area that I'm very focused on.  We've had several deputy’s management action groups, the DMAG, which is a major governance forum for connecting problems to dollar solutions in the department.

We've talked a lot about test and lab and we have added funds in test and lab. In the '23 budget, we have a pretty aggressive test and lab investment.  We'll keep coming back at that.  The deficit on test and lab infrastructure for the department is substantial.  It has been underinvested in for a very long time.  So no one budget year will get us out of that hole.

We will keep having to buy down that risk.  There are opportunities working with industry to work together for improving test and lab infrastructure and even also with allies who are looking at -- they might have range facilities, for instance, that we can better leverage than we do today, just as they come here to train.

So we don't have to solve all of this on the DOD side alone, but I think we have a pathway forward. It's going to take a few years.

STAFF:  And, Jenna, last question.

Q:  Sure.  So there's been clear talking points on this trip and sort of more broadly that objectives include competing with China and focusing on innovation.  Why do you feel that's sort of making that narrative so clear, you know, naming the competitor is important, and especially recently?

DR. HICKS:  Sure.  Well, the department has long been on the path of identifying China as a pacing competitor, and our national defense strategy that we released in classified form and with that unclassified summary. We just released the National Defense Strategy in January, and we are very clear in there about China being that pacing challenge.  The consistency to that message, I realize in light of what we experienced just recently terms of tensions in the Taiwan Strait, it may seem new, but it really isn't.  It's part of a very consistent, deliberate path, which is influenced more than anything by the actions and the investments the Chinese themselves have made.

We are trying to insure there's peace and stability in the Pacific.  We don't want to go to war with China.  We'd like to make sure we deter China from going after U.S. vital interests and the United States has significant vital interests in the Pacific, as well as their increasing military capability to reach us here at home.  So that's why we're really focused on it.

STAFF:  Perfect.  Deputy Secretary, thank you very much.

DR. HICKS:  OK. Great.  All right.  See you all tomorrow.