United States mil­i­tary has con­cerns about los­ing its high-tech dom­i­nance

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

The U.S. mil­i­tary is in dan­ger of los­ing its tech­no­log­i­cal ad­van­tage un­less it in­vests in re­search and finds ways to build in­no­va­tive weapons much faster, top of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

The Pen­tagon un­veiled an ini­tia­tive to stream­line its bu­reau­cracy and tap into tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs in the pri­vate sec­tor amid grow­ing anx­i­ety that Amer­i­can forces’ long­time high-tech edge is slip­ping away.

The mea­sures re­flected “an over­rid­ing con­cern that our tech­no­log­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity is at risk,” Frank Ken­dall, the Pen­tagon’s chief weapons buyer, wrote in a re­port.

“Po­ten­tial ad­ver­saries are chal­leng­ing the U.S. lead in con­ven­tional mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­ity in ways not seen since the Cold War,” wrote Ken­dall, who has dubbed the ini­tia­tive “Bet­ter Buy­ing Power 3.0.”

The chal­lenge stemmed from the na­ture of new tech­nolo­gies such as drones or mi­cro-com­put­ing, which are much more ac­ces­si­ble and avail­able to other coun­tries than in the past, of­fi­cials said.

Of­fi­cials this week de­scribed a fu­ture bat­tle­field in which po­ten­tial ad­ver­saries could counter Amer­ica’s tra­di­tional ad­van­tages in air or sea power.

U.S. com­man­ders are al­ready wor­ried about so­phis­ti­cated air de­fenses and anti-ship mis­siles. But of­fi­cials said other coun­tries are de­vot­ing ef­forts to cre­at­ing pre­ci­sion-guided rock­ets and ar­tillery that could pos­si­bly tar­get bio­met­ric signatures, mas­sive cy­ber war­fare and sys­tems that link sol­diers with var­i­ous ro­botic weaponry.

Gone are the days when a sin­gle in­no­va­tion could al­low the U.S. force to be dom­i­nant in the skies or at sea for decades, Deputy De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert Work told a press con­fer­ence.

“So we’re go­ing to have to be able to in­te­grate com­mer­cial tech­nol­ogy faster, ab­so­lutely,” he said.

The re­form ini­tia­tive called for scal­ing back bu­reau­cratic rules, at­tract­ing tech­ni­cally savvy work­ers to over­see pro­grams and designing weapons so that tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances can be quickly added, ac­cord­ing to Ken­dall.

That will mean build­ing more “mod­u­lar” or plug-and-play sys- tems that are ready to ac­cept new el­e­ments, in­clud­ing new sen­sors or other im­proved equip­ment, he said.

Although the re­form ini­tia­tive will help, Ken­dall said the key to main­tain­ing the U.S. mil­i­tary’s dom­i­nance was spend­ing more money on re­search and devel­op­ment and at­tract­ing tal­ented work­ers to over­see weapons pro­grams.

“But at the end of the day, the fun­da­men­tal driver on how fast we can mod­ern­ize is how much money we spend and on the qual­ity of the peo­ple out there do­ing the work,” he said.

And if the gov­ern­ment failed to ad­e­quately fund re­search and devel­op­ment, “you will not have a fu­ture weapons sys­tem.”

Po­ten­tial au­to­matic bud­get cuts, which Congress has im­posed on the en­tire fed­eral bud­get, could se­verely un­der­mine vi­tal re­search and the time lost car­ried its own cost, Ken­dall said.

In the mean­time, ad­ver­saries were in­vest­ing in new weapons.

“Time is not re­cov­er­able. And if I don’t do re­search, I have to do it later and take the time to do it,” he said.

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