The Pentagon is making a decided and targeted push to massively rev up innovation, research and development efforts to ensure the US keeps pace and stays in front of Russian and Chinese modernization.
Pentagon’s 2023 Budget
This emphasis, of course in place for many years, is being deliberately stepped up in the Pentagon’s 2023 budget for the clear purpose of ensuring Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Integrated Deterrence posture.
During recent remarks about the existing US National Defense Strategy and 2023 Pentagon budget, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks explained the conceptual foundation informing the push to prioritize research and innovation.
“Our topline request for Fiscal Year 23 includes $276 billion for procurement and for research, development, testing, and evaluation – and that is across land, air, sea, cyber, and space – domains that must be netted together for integrated deterrence,” Hicks said, according to a Pentagon transcript of her remarks.
This emphasis is not surprising, as the Biden administration likely reflects upon its Science and Technology push during the Obama years during which Pentagon and industry scientists pursued a “third offset” in breakthrough technologies. The impetus behind today’s efforts could likely be seen as closely aligned with this thinking, as the research organizations with the Army, Navy and Air Force are now placing additional emphasis upon basic research likely to inform warfare capabilities in the 2040s and 2050s.
While existing work is clearly focused upon near-term applications and a need to closely link the research and development community with current operational needs. This kind of accelerated integration is informing current Army, Navy and Air Force efforts to decrease “sensor-to-shooter” time, integrated AI
“Our first approach is integrated deterrence. We seek to network our efforts across domains, theaters, and the spectrum of conflict to ensure that the U.S. military, in close cooperation with the rest of the U.S. government and our Allies and partners, makes the folly and costs of aggression very clear,” Hicks said.
The first offset is widely regarded as the dawn of the nuclear era in the 1950s, clearly a paradigm-changing development; the second offset is discussed in terms of the advent of GPS and precision-guided weapons emerging during Desert Storm. What is the next paradigm-changing disruptive breakthrough technology or set of technologies? AI, networking, sensor-to-shooter attack timeline advances? Perhaps some combination of all of these, as the services are making great progress leveraging AI for nearer term applications through the Navy’s Project Overmatch, Air Force Advanced Battle Management System and Army Project Convergence.
Joint All Domain Command and Control Program
These respective service program are now being implemented into a joint, Pentagon-led Joint All Domain Command and Control program now being implemented. This program leverages promising breakthrough for nearer term applications, yet leaves open the possibility of ongoing software upgrades, adjustments and the integration of emerging technologies through the use of open architecture and common technical standards.
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In this respect, the Pentagon is working to align near term breakthroughs with gains expected to emerge through longer-term basic research efforts likely to emerge in 10 or 20 years. There are technological threads of capability throughout this near-to-long term synergy, particularly in the areas of AI, computer processing, gateways and common protocols able to merge otherwise disconnected platforms and software upgrades to weapons systems to improve guidance and targeting.
During her remarks, Hicks made a compelling non-partisan appeal to America’s national defense at the Reagan Institute by articulating power and crucially important synergies, parallels and common interests between President Biden’s thinking and the well-known defense of democratic freedoms espoused by President Ronald Reagan.
Hicks seemed to capture the US military’s long-standing non-partisan “support the Commander-in-Chief” mission ethic in support of US national security, regardless of party.
“Just walking through the halls here today really reinforces that - from the many quotes and artifacts that are here in this building. President Biden shares those core convictions about the importance of protecting our democracy, which today faces a myriad of challenges,” Hicks told the audience, according to a Pentagon transcript of her remarks.
These comments were likely welcomed with enthusiasm by the audience given the well-known and often discussed political tensions between US political parties. However, one this is fully beyond dispute, that is that both Democrats and Republicans stand ready to defend America against an increasingly serious global threat environment.
Alongside a clear and understandable emphasis upon the cruelty, brutality and security concerns related to Russia’s ongoing assault into Ukraine, Hicks was clear that the Chinese threat is by no means dropping below the radar and instead remains what she called “our military’s most consequential strategic competitor.”
Hicks again invoked the spirit of Reagan’s well-known Cold War deterrence posture to explain that the Pentagon budget as being inextricably aligned with the current threat environment and pressing need to keep America safe.
“In an address to the American people in 1983, President Reagan spoke about his defense budget request in this way: Budget is much more than a long list of numbers, for behind all the numbers lies America’s ability to prevent the greatest of human tragedies and preserve our free way of life in a sometimes-dangerous world,” Hicks said.
As part of her presentation, Hicks outlined broad parameters associated with the concepts woven into the National Defense Strategy which, while of course not forgetting threats such as China and Iran, clearly specify the growing seriousness of Russian and Chinese threats. Hicks also mentioned the importance of “building a resilient Joint Force defense ecosystem.”
These comments about supporting the emergence of networked, multi-domain joint attack concept aligns closely with her recent announcement about the Pentagon’s Implementation Plan for JADC2. JADC2, known as Joint All Domain Command and Control, is a DoD wide program now breaking through with efforts to align and integrate service-specific networking technologies into a joint, multi-service, multi-domain attack posture.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.