Defense

Hagel outlines DOD 'innovation initiative'

Chuck Hagel

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon "must change the way we innovate, operate and do business."

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Nov. 15 announced a "defense innovation initiative" to recalibrate the Pentagon’s strategic spending at a time when the U.S. technological edge over adversaries is dwindling. Part of the new initiative is a program that will focus on breakthroughs in fields such as robotics, big data, autonomous systems and 3D printing over the next decade and beyond.

In a lengthy address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Hagel laid out the catalysts for the new strategy: the rise of China and Russia, enduring fiscal uncertainty and the realization that DOD needs private-industry expertise to keep pace with technological change. 

"Continued fiscal pressure will likely limit our military's ability to respond to long-term challenges by increasing the size of our force or simply outspending potential adversaries on current systems," Hagel told a crowd of DOD and industry officials. "So to overcome challenges to our military superiority, we must change the way we innovate, operate and do business."

In the near term, Hagel said, the Pentagon would invite innovators from both inside and outside of government to “start with a clean sheet of paper, and assess what technologies and systems DOD ought to develop over the next three to five years and beyond."

Another key piece of the initiative is a panel led by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work that will draw upon the armed forces, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon’s acquisition component, among others, to encourage "fresh thinking" to how DOD approaches emerging threats, Hagel said.

Hagel's deputy for acquisition issues, Undersecretary Frank Kendall, has made rebuilding a wider technological advantage over adversaries the theme of the Pentagon’s latest effort to reform the acquisition system.

And while Hagel voiced confidence in his team's ability to drive change at DOD, he also stressed that "we need Congress to act."

"Since 2011, DOD has been forced to operate on continuing resolutions every year," Hagel said, “impairing our ability to plan, invest, and reform.” ... We need actual budgets -- budgets that give us certainty and predictability -- and the flexibility to make the management internal decisions about what’s required to deal with current and future threats for this country."

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is a former FCW staff writer.

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