DOD Seeks Disruptive Technologies That Will Enable Warfighter > U.S. Department of Defense > Department of Defense News

A soldier operates a military drone.

Russia and China, peer adversaries, have invested heavily in developing capabilities in the fields of hypersonics, space, nuclear, cybersecurity and autonomy, said the undersecretary at the Defense for research and engineering.

Heidi Shyu spoke virtually today at a McAleese defense conference.

“[This] has amplified the need to build our technological superiority and maintain our military edge, to include teamwork with our allies and partners,” she said.

Adversaries will have more and more access to advanced trading technologies than ever before, she added.

“We cannot afford a leveling of technological advantage. It is imperative that the department encourage early research into emerging technologies to avoid technological surprises. We must take advantage of critical cutting-edge commercial technology where rapid progress are trying to accelerate our military capabilities,” Shyu said.

“We need to leverage the incredible amount of technological innovation across our country to empower our leapfrogging capabilities to solve tough operational challenges,” she said.

The department must harness innovation, both domestically and globally. This includes affiliated university research centers, federally funded research and development centers, defense industry and commercial sectors, as well as allies and partners.

“By working together, we can solve the toughest challenges much faster. Teamwork is our asymmetric advantage,” Shyu said, outlining some ongoing and upcoming initiatives.

The Department of Defense’s Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation program, more commonly known as the SMART program, last year funded the tuition of 416 new undergraduate and graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The 2021 cohort includes students representing 184 colleges and universities and is the largest and most diverse in the program’s 15-year history, she said.

After graduation, SMART researchers will work in one of DOD’s 100 labs, Shyu said.

Shyu noted potentially disruptive abilities the department would like to acquire, including:

  • Biotechnology can provide early detection to help prevent pandemics.
  • Quantum science can provide unprecedented computational speed and help solve the toughest analytical problems. It can also provide much more accurate position, navigation and timing.

  • Advanced materials that may be stronger, but lighter, can reduce the logistical burden. In addition, materials that better withstand extreme temperatures can protect personnel.
  • 5G and future wireless G technology can make communications easier.
  • Cyber-secure artificial intelligence and autonomy are key to operating unmanned platforms.
  • An integrated networking system that enables engagement of any sensor on any shooter with the ability to integrate disparate systems that were never intended to talk to each other.
  • A hybrid and more proliferated space architecture to enable resilient cross-domain operations, communications, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and navigation and position synchronization.

  • Advanced computing and software should focus on a module, open architecture to isolate hardware from software and enable rapid upgrades.
  • Onshoring microelectronics, as 70% now comes from Asia, putting the supply chain at risk.
  • Highly immersive and realistic training environments can provide real-time feedback to improve fighter performance.
  • The directed energy has finally matured to the point where it can be deployed.
  • Hypersonic missiles have the ability to dramatically shorten flight time and provide extreme maneuvering. They are also very difficult to counter.

  • Component technologies have advanced significantly to enable the development of embedded sensing and cyber in one system. The department must develop broadband sensors to operate at the intersection of cyberspace, electronic warfare, radar, and communications to enable operation in a highly contested environment.