Official Says US Must Retain Technology Edge In Face Of Threats


By David Vergun

The United States must retain its technological edge to outmatch China and Russia in the great power competition, the acting undersecretary of defense for research and engineering said in recorded remarks during the virtual 2020 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Electronics Resurgence Initiative Summit.

Michael J. Kratsios said an emboldened and increasingly aggressive Chinese Communist Party has been building and deploying some of the most advanced weapons in the world, while using their newfound economic and technological power to undermine the safety, security and freedom of the United States and its allies and partners.

Nonetheless, he said in today’s summit, the United States still has the most advanced innovation ecosystem in the world. “The federal government, private sector and academia all operate in concert to produce advances other nations can’t even dream of,” he added.

However, adversaries such as China “spend more time, treasure and talent stealing our ideas rather than creating their own,” he said. “We must protect that innovation.”

Kratsios outlined two approaches the Defense Department is taking to foster innovation.

In the first approach, DOD is working closely with innovators in the private sector and academia, seeking new, game-changing technologies. For example, in June, DOD announced 5G network experimentation at five installations. By the end of this fall, Kratsios said, testing will begin at seven more. The development of 5G will also enhance augmented reality and virtual training, he said, and will make air operations centers safer, more mobile and more secure.

These and other advances will improve warfighting capabilities and will also aid the private sector, Kratsios said, as small businesses and startups are increasingly taking the lead in many cutting-edge technologies that have applications that could assist warfighters.

However, small companies that are unaccustomed to working with DOD have faced challenges in navigating the complex and voluminous acquisition and contracting paperwork, he acknowledged. To mitigate the paperwork problems small businesses often face, the department recently created the Defense Innovation Unit, which has the necessary authorities to streamline the process.

DIU has successfully engaged small companies in such areas as machine learning to predict component failure; and in remote unmanned, underwater vehicles, he noted.

The second approach to fostering innovation, Kratsios said, is engaging closely with like-minded nations that also value freedom, democracy and fair competition. Partnerships in research and engineering with allies and friends, along with American companies and universities, include developing new technologies in areas like microelectronics, network improvements, hypersonics, quantum computing and artificial intelligence, he said.

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