No one would call Russia’s government and budgetary bureaucracy particularly nimble, nor its defense industry particularly advanced. Certainly, it trails Western economies in such key areas as communication equipment, microelectronics, high-tech control systems, and other key technologies. But in certain aspects of the field of unmanned military systems, Russia may be inching ahead of its competition in designing and testing a wide variety of systems and conceptualizing their future use.
The U.S. military is partnering with Silicon Valley to step up its game on the battlefield. The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUX), which is part of the Department of Defense, is connecting the U.S. military with companies developing leading-edge technology that would help it carry out missions quicker and cheaper.
“DoD does not have an innovation problem; it has an innovation adoption problem,” reads one of the new recommendations from the Defense Innovation Board. It even has an “innovation theater” problem: the preference for small cosmetic steps over actual change.
President Trump is unveiling a new national security strategy that focuses on ensuring U.S. economic prosperity, defending the homeland and posturing the nation to compete against rising technological powers. In the strategy, the administration coins the phrase, “national security innovation base,” to describe a key asset that the United States must protect.
Department of Defense officials are working to shift focus onto research and development that fosters U.S. military dominance in emerging areas, such as hardened micro-electronics, hypersonics, and offensive and defensive cyber.
America’s military-technological advantage, an aspect of its strategic power since the end of the Cold War, is eroding. In response, the Pentagon launched the third offset strategy in 2014--a department-wide effort to find new ways, both technological and institutional, to leap ahead of its competitors.
A long-held military maxim is to take the high ground and hold it. That may be outdated in today’s electronic and high-tech battlefields, but that notion still holds true for scientific research and engineering. Research is the foundation for engineering invention, and that leadership in engineering underpins our national security and economy. Retaining the high ground in research and engineering is necessary to deter future conflicts, win future wars and maintain our standard of living.
“If we don’t embrace it, our adversaries will,” said outgoing DIA Director, Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart. “The fight for remaining relevant in this digital age is what keeps me awake.” And Stewart was clear. It is, in many ways, an arms race. “Our adversaries have been modernizing,” he warned, speaking to a small group of reporters in August, as the agency welcomed private companies and academics to the iHub for a series of so-called Industry Days.
The U.S. military faces substantial difficulties in maintaining its current technological and operational advantages, and must invest in future capabilities for the military challenges of tomorrow. The FY 2018 defense budget request would substantially increase RDT&E spending, adding 11 percent over the FY 2017 appropriations. This brief outlines major RDT&E programs by service, stage of development, and segment, and tracks the shifts compared to prior years.
Artificial intelligence experts shook up the tech world this month when they called for the United Nations to regulate and even consider banning autonomous weapons. Attention quickly gravitated to the biggest celebrity in the group, Elon Musk, who set the Internet ablaze when he tweeted: “If you're not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”