Pentagon S&T strategy emphasizes cyber, space, EW

Pentagon Science & Technology leaders said government, academic and industrial innovators must embrace an investment strategy aimed at advancing key “thrust” areas such as electronic warfare (EW), cyber, counter-space and counter- weapons of mass destruction.

Alan R. Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for Research and Engineering, outlined these priorities as something specifically designed to mitigate new and emerging threats — while delineating some key parameters of the Pentagon’s broader S&T strategy. He spoke Wednesday at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 14th Annual Science & Engineering Technology Conference/Defense Tech Exposition, National Harbor, Md.

“We have an increased set of threats. We have an unstable nation in the Middle East that has chemical weapons which could get in the wrong hands. We have to deal with North Korea. We have to deal with cyber attacks and cyber espionage. We have to deal with an increasingly complex set of Anti-Access/Area-Denial threats,” Shaffer explained.

At the same time, Shaffer emphasized affordability as a key to developing next-generation technology in today’s more constrained budget environment.

“We have reduced money, yet increased threats. Now we have to think what is in the realm of the possible, but what is in the realm of the possible that is also affordable. That is going to take a shift by people within the government and industry,” he said.

Shaffer described the vital need to harvest innovation and create what he called “technology surprise” within the context of discussing the fast-changing global technological environment, something he identified as a “rise in the commons.”

The “commons” are those areas, such as the electro-magnetic spectrum, oceans, space and cyber where the U.S. military no longer enjoys the same kind of unparalleled technological superiority it had just ten years ago.

“What we have noticed over the past decade during our counterinsurgency operations is an incredible rise in a place called the ‘commons.’ These are the places that no one owns and yet enable all of our operational systems,” Shaffer said. “It used to be that we had the pre-eminent electronic systems in the world. That is not really the case anymore.”

Ensuring safe commerce on the oceans is another vital common area where the U.S. will want to preserve and build upon its technological dominance.

“The U.S. still has the best platforms in the world,” Shaffer said. “When the JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] is fielded, there will be no other aircraft like it in the world. Our surface combatant ships are the best platforms in the world. Our ground systems are the best in the world. We have to think about how we can enable these platforms to operate better.”

In terms of the electronic warfare arena, Shaffer said the U.S. military needs radio frequency mixed- signal component technologies and better, more affordable EO/IR sensors (electro-optical/infra-red).

“The electro-magnetic spectrum is so critical to our operations. We need distributed heterogeneous EW and we need adaptive EW,” he said.

He also talked about the importance of developing inertial navigation systems so as to provide key combat-relevant navigational information without necessarily needing to rely upon GPS technology.

“We need to start to develop space capabilities with or without a space layer. My goal would be to make GPS technology something that is more important to the Department of Transportation than it is to the military,” Shaffer said. “If I can do a better job with an inertial navigation system, then I no longer have to rely upon GPS and it doesn’t become such a lucrative target to ‘jam’ or take out.”

Shaffer cited a new Pentagon pilot program established to provide funds to government and industry defense laboratories for the specific purpose of advancing research in the field of autonomy; the effort involves providing labs with about $20 million a year over a period of four years, Shaffer said.

“Each of our defense laboratories are coming in with specific autonomy research proposals. We’re trying to think about a different way of doing business where we have our laboratories coupled with industry more tightly,” Shaffer explained. “Autonomy is potentially a huge enabler to the way we think about operating. Autonomy goes beyond robotics and goes to thinking about having multiple platforms out in some type of space that act together.”

Shafer outlined key elements of the S&T strategy, in part as way to inform the military’s industrial and academic partners about areas to direct Basic Research and expend Independent Research and Development (IRAD) dollars.

“Help us prototype. Help us deliver capability faster and a little more predictably,” Shaffer told an audience of academic and industry participants.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.

    More sense from Washington! Finally, we are going to shift to cyber and space technology. The Chinese Cyber threat is very, very dangerous. It is good to see the Government finally make steps to reinforce our cyber security. As for space, I hope this leads to more funding for NASA.

    • Belesari

      Couldn’t agree more. Now if only we could build a rods from god satelite constelation or station.

    • Restore Palestine

      Oh no, BS bombing run from BS ENTERPRISE again.

    • queen

      Your political views are interesting home dawg

  • Big-Dean

    I see a new medal forth coming the “Cyber Distinguished Warrior”

    created for bravery in the line of 0100110101111000001101110011000 fire, to putting one’s own PC at extreme risk of 0101000111010010001100 and putting other computer first before 01010100110001010 one’s own 01010011100001010010010

    it’ll be rated right below the medal of honor, oh and let’s not forget the oak leaf cluster for 0101011110001010010010011001 ;-P

  • Paul

    he’s saying that you don’t know squat of binary math.

    • blight_

      Base 10 forever! Base ten sucks!

    • Evgeniya

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  • John Murray

    So, EW is one of the big three and yet the F-35 EW suite is essentially still on the drawing board and nowhere near ready for anything and they expect it to start replacing the USMC EA-6B fleet in the next 3 years. Okay, tell me another one.

    • blight_

      Indeed, perhaps the Navy will buy more Growlers.


        Lets hope so. Growler F-18 is probably the only worthy aircraft to replace the EA-6B

        • blight_

          I’m not even thinking of worthy…more in terms of what is /available/ and will probably in the fleet for some time.

          Even if JSF and its promised EW suite materialize, they’re unlikely to can all the Growlers all at once.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            “Available rather than worthy”? What would be your idea of the “perfect” EW aircraft? Personally, I say stick with the Growler. JSF is having a hard time trying to get operational as a fighter. Adding an EW version sounds expensive.

          • Belesari

            The problem with the Growler is the stress the weight of the EW equipment it stresses the frame to much creating cracks.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Well honestly, though, with that problem in mind, what would have been better? The F-18 is a proven aircraft, its already familiar with the Navy, and it works. Developing an entirely new aircraft would be expensive (considering the effort put into making the F-35 in a fighter, an EW F-35 (would that be an E-35?) would be like making an entirely new plane).

  • bobbymike

    I’m old school, energetics, engines to get there, warheads to blow S%&T up!

  • Belesari

    What is the point of putting a EW suite on a Stealth aircraft. Its kinda like making ninja’s where reflective tape so they can be seen.


      Well, it can be counter intuitive. But I think that the new radar upgrades they are going to put in here, and the jamming, tech, will be “invisible”.

      • Restore Palestine

        Wow, a new, higher level of “loony BS” is coming.

        Been skipping your psychiatric meds for months, eh?

    • STemplar

      It is oxymoronic to a certain extent but in theory better computer on the F35 and better sensor suite along with platform built for it would in theory make it more capable. Now if they can just get the damn thing to actually land on a carrier……

    • joe

      Because you always have the option *not* to use it until it’s advantageous to do so.

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