By: Dave Majumdar
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testifies before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense about the Defense Department’s FY15 budget request June 18, 2014. DoD Photo
The Pentagon is launching a new “third game-changing offset strategy” to maintain America’s decisive technological military edge well into the future. The new strategy will be developed by deputy defense secretary Bob Work and Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall.
“Bob and Frank will be the key drivers of DoD’s efforts in all of these areas,” said defense secretary Chuck Hagel in a speech before the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance in Newport, Rhode Island, earlier today.
“They have my full confidence and my full support, and I will be personally engaged in this effort.”
An offset strategy is a uniquely Pentagon term for the U.S. military’s technological edge overcoming numerically superior forces. The first U.S. offset strategy centered around nuclear weapons and the second is based around guided weapons.
As part of the Pentagon’s latest efforts, Kendall will convene a Long-Range Research & Development Planning Program. The effort is intended to help the Defense Department innovate in an austere budget environment and where other powers like Russia and China are moving to counter traditional U.S. advantages.
“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.
Hagel said that the Pentagon must take advantage of new commercial sector technologies such as robotics, advanced computing, miniaturization and 3D printing.
“DoD must be able to assess which commercial innovations have military potential, rapidly adopt them, and then test and refine them, including through war-gaming and demonstrations,” he said.
But in addition to better innovation, the Pentagon needs to be able to buy those advanced technologies to equip frontline forces without breaking the bank. Therefore, the Pentagon is making another effort to streamline its cumbersome acquisition process with an initiative called Better Buying Power 3.0.
Some of the changes include more use of modular and open systems architectures; providing industry with draft requirements earlier on; removing obstacles to procuring commercial items; and improving the Pentagon’s technology search and outreach in global markets.
In addition to those changes, the Defense Department will increase the use of prototyping in the hopes of preserving the defense industrial base and reducing risk when developing new systems.
“In times of reduced budgets, prototyping furthers technical advances in R&D [research and development], helps keep us ahead of the threat, and reduces risk by lowering lead times in the event we go forward with production,” Hagel said.
“Importantly, it also allows us to preserve design teams during any long periods between new product development programs. This will be vital to preserving a robust, capable defense industrial base.”
But the reforms would not end there. Hagel said that the Pentagon is open to new ideas to improve its acquisitions processes.
“DoD will never corner the market on good ideas for improving defense acquisition,” he said. “That’s why we’ve been reaching out to hear from everyone – industry, trade groups, think tanks, and Congress – and finding ways to work together to make the improvements we need.”