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Look beyond reform to keep the technological edge — FCW

defense

DIU Director: Look beyond reform to maintain the technological edge

Global War Fighter Data (DOD Graphic Representation)

If the US is to regain its technological edge, it will take more than acquisition reform, said a senior defense technology officer.

“We are losing this lead, and at a rapid pace. And I think if we look at what it takes to maintain that lead, it will be a renewed commitment to science and technology in this country, “said Mike Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit, said Nov. 4th during the Aspen Security Forum.

“We continue to have an erosion of federally funded R&D as a percentage of GDP, which has fallen from 2%, now in security investments, to 0.35%. That doesn’t sound like a leader who wants to maintain a technological edge. ”

Brown, who had previously asked for his nomination as Defense Department head of acquisitions in July be withdrawn following an investigation into a preference complaint about hiring practices, found that increasing STEM talent was part of the solution, but that it also required a critical review of requirements and budgeting procedures.

“We have to re-imagine these obstacles in our way, these obstacles. You will not be able to do this if you adhere to the requirements. Think of the narcissism of [what] Requirements means: We are omniscient; we know exactly what the market should build. Well, that doesn’t work in the world, “Brown said.” It’s about modularity, open interoperability, open standards … that requires rethinking.

Brown’s comments come as Congressional and Defense officials openly pondered possible reforms to the budgeting process to help the DOD buy and develop technology, especially software, faster.

Brown noted that acquisition reform has been a focus for decades while the requirements process has been relatively successful.

“We need to get back to that risk-taking spirit where fewer people can make a decision,” Brown said let’s use some more flexible sensing methods … we’re only going as fast as the slowest cog in this system. ”

“We have been so focused on acquisitions over the past 20 or 30 years. And there are solutions, as with other transaction authorities. We weren’t concerned with requirements or budgeting, ”said Braun.

Chris Lynch, the former director of Defense Digital Service who helped shape the $ 10 billion acquisition of DOD’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, said he wanted software to be as buzzing as weapon systems.

“When we think of the military, we think of an aircraft carrier or a tank or a jet or a satellite floating around in space. Now these things won’t go away. This is very clearly what I consider to be the software age of defense. And that’s driven by the flawless execution of software to accomplish the mission of defense and national security, “said Lynch, who is now Co-Founder and CEO of Rebellion Defense, also speaking on the podium.

“It’s cool to build big, heavy things. I understand. It’s super great. We should think this is great deployment and the ability for people to use APIs, I can tell you now that none of this is changing. It won’t change. And guess what, it doesn’t sound that exciting, but you have to look forward to it. You should be like this, damn it, yeah I love APIs. “

Brown said another challenge for the US, which has a technological edge, is being able to work with allies to develop solutions on a large scale.

“We need to find a way to work with allies more easily and quickly,” Brown said, noting that the Biden administration announced a new working group to share advanced technology, including submarines, with Australia and the UK, ” in relation to “of what [we can] working as a collaborative project to bring this technology to our military requires some of the things we talked about. We need to change the process because we don’t have a process or system that is simple or agile to involve our allies. I firmly believe that this has to change in order to compete with China. “

About the author

Lauren C. Williams is Senior Editor for FCW and Defense Systems, specializing in defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was a tech reporter at ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In previous positions, Williams has reported on health care, politics, and crime for a variety of publications including the Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be reached at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for earlier articles by Williams.