The United States has just sent "a 100,000-ton message to the world," says US President Donald Trump. The message comes in the form of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, a $13 billion behemoth commissioned into the US Navy's fleet on Saturday.
China's military has set up a new department modelled on the Pentagon's hi-tech research agency to develop state-of-the-art weapons such as stealth aircraft and electromagnetic cannons. The Scientific Research Steering Committee was set up early this year, according to a documentary aired on state broadcaster CCTV that revealed the new department for the first time.
The Pentagon has raised concerns about China’s access to artificial-intelligence-based technology developed in the US, according to Reuters. The news agency says a leaked report proposes that export controls be updated to stop Chinese organisations being able to invest in some start-ups. It suggests the move is needed to prevent their advanced algorithms being repurposed for the military by Beijing.
The U.S. Air Force’s new civilian head wants the service to retake its claim as the military’s innovation pioneer. To do that, it will have to renew investments in basic and applied research that in the past have enabled massive gains in stealth, computing technologies and composite materials, she said Tuesday.
Lasers are fast becoming the weapon of choice as the battlefield becomes increasingly hi-tech. Britain is already working on a laser which could slice aircraft like butter and the US has already begun testing the technology to shoot down incoming missiles and drones.
Coupled with the lack of an updated defense research and development (R&D) strategy to help focus U.S. investments and rally the U.S. R&D community, inefficiencies in the U.S. defense technology pipeline (where decades can elapse before an innovation finds its way into the hands of the warfighter), are crippling the technology advantage of the U.S. military. The United States must act purposefully and with urgency to reclaim U.S. leadership in defense innovation and restore America’s technological advantage.
I believe that the biggest national security issue we face is that over 70 percent of young people in New York, and nationwide, are not qualified to serve in the military. One in five New York students does not graduate on time from high school, and among those who do graduate and try to join the military, another one in five cannot pass the military's exam for math, literacy and problem-solving.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, former Department of Defense officials said it is still unclear what Trump's specific strategy is for Pentagon spending. They did say innovation will be in the mix, but the question is how it will compete with other priorities and constituencies.
What the Third Offset and its predecessors have done well is identify the strategic imperative for securing a new competitive operational edge through technology. This signaling is critical. It can reassure our allies and deter our adversaries by demonstrating the reliability of future U.S. military dominance. For innovators - whether they are government insiders, denizens of traditional and nontraditional defense industry, or other potential partners - it can serve as a clarion call for bold ideas.
China is taking a page from the Pentagon's playbook under the Obama administration: it's partnering with tech companies to develop more cutting-edge weapons. But China's innovation-focused strategy could elevate the espionage risk to the U.S.