New institute to tackle tough questions

Emerging technological horizons: New institute to tackle tough questions

05/25/2021

By Rebecca Wostenberg

USS Constitution

Navy photo

When the construction of the USS Constitution began in 1794, the young republic had limited resources and would soon face, for the second time, the most powerful navy in the world. Naval architect Joshua Humphreys knew that with limited resources every ship had to be as formidable as possible, so he set out to build a different type of frigate.

In the end, it was bigger, faster, had a stronger hull – which earned it the nickname “Old Ironsides” – and was more heavily armed, capable of carrying double the guns per deck without sacrificing weight. maneuverability. It made its mark during the War of 1812 and still sits in Boston Harbor as a testament to America’s long history of innovation.

This story sets the United States apart from other nations. Unlike some countries that have chosen to steal intellectual property to advance their military might, America has always been a nation of inventors and innovators. This has played a crucial role throughout American military history and must continue if we are to remain the most powerful army in the world. In the same way that Humphreys took the meager resources of a young republic and created a truly historic frigate, the US military today needs the advanced technologies of tomorrow – artificial intelligence, hypersonics, etc. – to fight and win in the 21st century.

As noted in last month’s column, adversaries have had ample time to study America’s mode of warfare. But they should not be allowed to use this to their advantage. The nation must ensure that its fighters retain the lethality and competitive advantage that emerging technologies can bring to the battlefield. It won’t happen overnight, but we owe it to the men and women in uniform to do the hard work that will pay off in the decades to come.

Here at the National Defense Industrial Association, there is strength in numbers. There are currently 1,567 corporate members and 61,935 individual members to be exact. By representing the full spectrum of the industry that will ultimately manufacture and supply these technologies, the Institute for Emerging Technologies is uniquely positioned to bring together key industry members, leading academic experts and decision makers at the Congress and the Department of Defense.

No one outside of government is effectively focusing their attention on emerging technologies and bringing together the right players to ultimately accelerate the deployment of these technologies into the hands of combatants. This is exactly the void that the ETI seeks to fill. At the same time, NDIA’s interaction with industry has always been a two-way street, and ETI’s work will be no different.

A lot is demanded of the defense industry base – the cost of failure can be life and death on the battlefield. However, members of the industry know best where their impact can be greatest. What challenges do they face when working with the ministry on emerging technologies? Are there any policy changes that might help resolve some of these issues?

The institute wants to hear the point of view of its members and will offer many avenues to make their voices heard. Expect ETI to not only leverage NDIA’s existing division structure, but also to find areas for growth. Whether it is a working group focused on microelectronics or a workshop devoted to hypersonics, the institute aims to provide forums in which industry, government and academia can come together for discussions. productive discussions leading to solutions for the fighter.

NDIA has always made a point of representing all members, not just a company, and ETI will be no different. He will be independent and objective, tracking where the data takes them and maintaining that honest broker status. For this reason, ETI also seeks to provide recommendations on where the Defense Department can make the best investments in emerging technology – not to invest in buzzwords, but to invest in useful capabilities for the fighter.

A challenge that small businesses often face is the cost of doing business with the department and navigating the acquisition process.

When innovative emerging technology solutions come from these companies, overcoming this challenge can make the difference in commissioning capability. The 2018 National Defense Strategy highlights the need to “deliver performance at the speed of relevance”, which is particularly relevant in procurement. Much time and manpower has been spent on this set of issues, but there is still work to be done. The current acquisition process, which operates within multi-year timelines, is not conducive to the commissioning of innovative technologies that change on a weekly or monthly basis.

There is a need to carefully review the current processes. For example, how do you balance emerging technologies with currently funded platforms? How can the acquisition culture be changed to be more agile and responsive to the needs of the battlefield? These same questions, and many more, will be the focus of ETI’s first public workshop on June 7, titled “The Modernization Quandary”. The purpose of this workshop is to start a serious conversation between the Department of Defense, industry and Congress about what needs to be done first and what can be postponed, especially in a tight budget environment.

Faced with a constrained budget environment 200 years ago, Joshua Humphreys still found a way to provide a young navy with a ship that could outrun and overtake other frigates of the time. This 18th century “emerging technology” made a difference in the War of 1812. Although the current environment of budgetary constraints is far from that of our founding, it should be remembered that every generation of US military leaders has faced challenges. this fundamental challenge.

Rebecca Wostenberg is a researcher at the Institute for Emerging Technologies. Contact her at [email protected]

The subjects: Research and development


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