“I am establishing a broad, Department-wide initiative to pursue innovative ways to sustain and advance our military superiority for the 21st Century and improve business operations throughout the Department” states the opening sentence of a November 15 memorandum from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to senior personnel at the Defense Department. Hagel discussed this memorandum on November 15 in a keynote address at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California during which he cautioned “Enduring and emerging powers are challenging the world order that American leadership helped build after World War II.”
Hagel views innovation as key to maintaining American leadership, highlighting in his speech the need for “investing in our nation’s unrivaled capacity for innovation. Many industrial leaders are here today in this audience, and know exactly what is at stake in this challenge. This is important so that in the face of mounting challenges, our military’s capability, technological edge, strategy, and readiness will continue to stay ahead of any potential adversary.” His memorandum lists six bulleted points in a strategy to put “the competitive advantage firmly in the hands of American power projection over the coming decades” by accelerating innovation within the Defense Department:
- “The 21st Century requires us to integrate leadership development practices with emerging opportunities to re-think how we develop managers and leaders.
- “A new long-range research and development planning program will identify, develop, and field breakthrough technologies and systems that sustain and advance the capability of U.S. military power.
- “A reinvigorated wargaming effort will develop and test alternative ways of achieving our strategic objectives and help us think more clearly about the future security environment.
- “New operational concepts will explore how to employ resources to greater strategic effect and deal with emerging threats in more innovative ways.
- “This effort will include more DoD components, particularly Policy; Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; Intelligence; the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the Military Departments.
- “Finally, we need to continue to further examine our business practices and find ways to be more efficient and effective through external benchmarking and focused internal reviews.”
In his keynote address, Hagel explained: “Our technology effort will establish a new Long-Range Research and Development Planning Program that will help identify, develop, and field breakthroughs in the most cutting-edge technologies and systems – especially from the fields of robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, big data, and advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing. This program will look toward the next decade and beyond.”
Hagel later acknowledged “that many, if not most, of the technologies that we seek to take advantage of today are no longer also in the domain of DoD development pipelines or traditional defense contractors. We all know that DoD no longer has exclusive access to the most cutting-edge technology or the ability to spur or control the development of new technologies the way we once did. So we will actively seek proposals from the private sector, including those firms, and from those firms and academic institutions outside DoD’s traditional orbit.”
Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work has been placed in charge of this initiative.
Hagel remarked about funding constraints in his address, stating “we’re facing a reshaping of our enterprise by a fiscal environment plagued by constant budget uncertainty and a large, continuing decline in resources.” Looking ahead, he later said “The Defense Innovation Initiative will shape our programs, plans, and budgets. As the initiative matures over time, I expect its impact on DoD’s budget to scale up in tandem.”
Funding for the three defense science and technology programs has varied. The Obama Administration’s FY 2014 request for the 6.1 basic research program declined 6.9 percent from the previous year. The 6.2 applied research request was down 4.0 percent; the 6.3 advanced technology development request was down 3.1 percent. House and Senate appropriators took different approaches to FY 2015 funding for these programs.
Putting pressure on this new initiative will be continued funding constraints, including sequestration which could be imposed on the FY 2016 budget. Hagel estimates sequestration of his department’s budget during the next ten years could lead to almost $1 trillion in cuts.
The November 15 memorandum is available here.
The November 15 speech by Secretary Hagel is available here.