By MARCUS WEISGERBER
NEWPORT, R.I. — The Pentagon will expand its use of prototyping as the US Defense Department’s budget tightens, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday.
The use of increased prototyping is directed in Better Buying Power 3.0, the Pentagon’s latest update to its acquisition improvement initiatives designed to get DoD more bang for its buck.
“In times of reduced budgets, prototyping furthers technical advances in [research and development], it helps keep us ahead of the threat and reduces risk by lowering lead times in the event we go forward with production,” Hagel said Wednesday at a conference sponsored by the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance.
“Importantly, [prototyping] also allows us to preserve design teams during any long periods between new product development programs,” he said. “This will be vital to preserving a robust, capable defense industrial base.”
Better Buying Power 3.0 will focus on “innovation and accelerating the flow of technology to our people,” Hagel said.
New acquisition improvement initiatives also include:
- More use of modular and open systems architectures.
- Providing industry with draft requirements earlier.
- Removing obstacles to procuring commercial items.
- Improving our technology search and outreach in global markets.
“We must be innovative not only in developing the technologies we buy, but also how we buy them, and how we use them in order to achieve our operational and strategic objectives,” Hagel said.
In addition, Frank Kendall, the Pentagon acquisition chief, will convene a Long-Range Research & Development Planning Program “aimed at assuring our technological edge through the next several decades,” Hagel said.
At the same time, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work is leading an effort to determine what types of new technologies could help the US military outperform adversaries of the future.
“Given the current budget environment, innovation will be critical,” Hagel said.
Hagel also touted “groundbreaking technological change” in the commercial sector, in the areas of robotics, advanced computing, miniaturization and 3D printing.
“DoD must be able to assess which commercial innovations have military potential, rapidly adopt them, adapt them, and then test and refine them, including through war-gaming and demonstrations,” he said.
Throughout his speech, Hagel challenged companies to innovate by developing new technologies, operational concepts and procurement methods. It was the most extensive speech given by Hagel on the subject since becoming defense secretary in February 2013.
“We must take this challenge seriously, and do everything necessary to sustain and renew our military superiority,” Hagel said. “This will not only require active investment by both government and industry, it will require us to once again embrace a spirit of innovation and adaptability across our defense enterprise.”
US dominance in the air, sea, space and cyberspace can no longer be taken for granted, Hagel said.
“[W]hile the United States continues to maintain a decisive military and technological edge over any other potential adversary, our continued superiority is not a given,” he said.
Much of Hagel’s language echoes that of Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics. For nearly a year, Kendall has been sounding the alarm that US technological superiority is at risk.
Hagel has been supportive of Kendall’s comments privately inside the Pentagon, sources say.
The secretary stopped in Newport on his way Wales where he will attend the much-anticipated NATO summit.