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Defense Tech and Dual Use is the Future - Part II
The multiple channels in the mighty government.... programs, priorities, funding, and opportunity for the commercial and private sector
Fear of the unknown is real. Adapting to the speed and depth of new technologies is critical. Leveraging solutions across public and private will drive the next decade. Shifting mindsets towards the future can be difficult for old, young and experienced. The companies, organizations and individuals who embrace the change will see success, failure and new ways of viewing things. Defense tech and dual use will solve practical problems, increase national security, re-focus our attention to the technologies of the future, and provide the leadership needed for the next wave of innovation. This will take many forms and provide much needed opportunity at the local and state levels, as well as strengthen ties with core partners, alliances and allies.
Part two will dive a bit deeper into the programs, priorities, technologies and monies available to motivated companies, organizations and individuals. These programs and paths are not exclusive and serve to be a general knowledge transfer to those who have limited visibility to the world of defense and dual use. In many cases, the process of innovation, commercialization and application have the similarities of the private business world when it comes to proof of concepts, validation, and partnerships. Alignment of the technologies and services with proper federal innovation programs and partners, bridges the differences. Yes, the government is complicated. However, there are lots of people with expertise and knowledge willing and able to help support. Inquisitive creativity mixed with patience and mission at solving stubborn or old issues is all that is needed.
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US Defense Budgets and Programs
Listed below are defense budget categories and programs which allow innovation. The innovation channels are of particular interest, as they guide the way into the defense eco-system. As mentioned in part one, total US defense budget exceeds USD $750B. Each branch of military has allocated budget based on proposed need. This can be influenced and changed based on geo-political environment and congressional alignment of future programs. This includes research, development of new technology, acquisition of equipment, and sustainment.
Defense Budget Categories: Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (RDT&E) Budget, Military Construction (MILCON) Budget, Procurement Budget, Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Budget, Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Budget, Defense Health Program (DHP) Budget, Family Housing Budget.
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs: These programs are intended to help small businesses conduct R&D that has the potential for commercialization and meets specific DoD needs.
Foreign Military Financing (FMF): A program run by the U.S. Department of State to provide grants for the acquisition of U.S. defense equipment, services, and training.
Direct Commercial Sales (DCS): Allows foreign entities to directly contract with U.S. companies for defense articles, training, and services.
Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III: Aims to create, maintain, protect, expand, or restore domestic industrial base capabilities essential for national defense. This give the president direct authority to expedite and expand the production of materials and supply.
Public-Private Partnerships: These partnerships often involve collaboration between the DoD and private companies to fund, develop, and deliver specific capabilities. Some of the programs are listed below.
Defense Innovation Unit (DIU): A DoD organization that funds commercial technology innovation to solve national defense problems. Extremely important in directing the flow of innovation.
Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF): Provides a pathway for small businesses to introduce innovative technologies into military systems.
The lists, titles and budgets change and fluctuate. Engagement with the people leading the efforts in these areas is recommended and encouraged.
The DOD Priority List
According to the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, here are the areas of focus which are no secret. The pace and mechanism vary. This organization also serves as the CTO for the DOD. As you can see, the tech categories are centered around new energy materials, faster compute, space, and communications. Each in various stages of development.
Here is a detailed view of 2023 Defense Priorities.
Seed Areas of Emerging Opportunity
Biotechnology — Living systems for global adaptation of missions, contested logistics, and major global changes.
Quantum Science — Applications with leap ahead capabilities.
Future Generation Wireless Technology (FutureG) — Next gen communications.
Advanced Materials — New materials and new manufacturing.
Effective Adoption Areas
Trusted AI and Autonomy — Automation learning at scale.
Integrated Network Systems-of-Systems — Command and Control across DOD.
Microelectronics — Next generation chips, manufacturing, and supply.
Space Technology — Space communication, operations and autonomy.
Renewable Energy Generation and Storage — Diversification and resilience.
Advanced Computing and Software — Modernize.
Human-Machine Interfaces — AR/VR technologies.
Directed Energy — Lasers, microwave, high energy weapons.
Hypersonics — Fast flying stuff for air, sea, and land.
Integrated Sensing and Cyber — Wideband sensors with multi-function.
The Next Generation Tech Priorities — SCSP.AI
One of the best sources of tech priorities comes from an organization called SCSP (Special Competitive Studies Project). This organization is a continuation of a government special committee, focused on a roadmap for leadership in next generation technologies, which impact national security and influence national priorities. Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, created the offshoot to continue the research and recommendations to multiple branches of US government. The organization provides research, guidance and roadmaps across six areas: Foreign Policy, Intelligence, Defense, Economy, Society, and Future Tech Platforms.
Similar organizations existed in the 1950s to counter the global and domestic threats the nation faced. The current organization is made up of subject matter experts and threads across science, government, agencies and corporate sectors. Pulling experts from each of these areas and combining the threads have helped modernize the approach to a modern, fast world. In 2024 they will have an AI Expo which will bring together leading organizations centered around policy, products and services. Their national security programs aim to reach educational organizations with workshops focused on next generation technology leadership. Additionally, they have several technology and exchange summits which bring together global experts to collaborate.
The challenge is taking their research, suggestions, recommendations and applying them locally. This is where we come in. All people of local communities, technical or not, should spend some time reviewing the work. If you are in the start-up community, this could provide you with ideas, pathways and supporting material to make your case to the local, state, federal organizations. If you are a local government leader, understanding the future of tech could spark policies and initiatives which enhance the people you represent. If you are an economic development organization, this could provide you with a roadmap for future economic activity, jobs and leadership. If you are a university or educational institution, this research can provide accelerated pathways to excellence in core knowledge gaps.
The Funding Pools Available
Over the last 10 years, the DOD has invested in innovation organizations and partnerships which make it easier to do business with the tech and civilian community. It’s not perfect, but it enables the connections and partnerships to thrive. These initiatives involve private industry, academia and non-traditional defense companies. The result channels money, jobs and economic activity to local and regional communities. Based on the budget of the federal agency, a certain % of the budget must go to small businesses. There are 100s of millions of dollars available for open projects every year.
Here are some of the notable innovation hubs and partnerships under the DOD:
DIU works to accelerate the adoption of leading commercial technology throughout the military and grow the national security innovation base. It has multiple locations, including Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin, and the Pentagon.
An initiative of the U.S. Air Force (and now the U.S. Space Force) that encourages innovation and connects innovators. It has initiatives like the Air Force Ventures, Spark, and Prime to accelerate and fund innovation. It operates under the U.S. Air Force and, with the establishment of the U.S. Space Force, now supports both branches.
In collaboration with U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), SOFWERX is an intermediary that helps address challenging problems faced by the special operations community through innovative means.
Establishes partnerships and builds communities of interest around specific defense challenges to foster innovation. They have various locations associated with different defense missions.
An entire command structure created by the U.S. Army to lead the Army’s future force modernization. It integrates the future operational environment, threat, and technologies to develop and deliver concepts, requirements, future force designs, and modern materiel solutions. AFC is based in Austin, TX.
This agility office for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps acts as an interface between the Department of the Navy and the non-traditional market. It facilitates rapid adoption of proven agility-enhancing methods.
Previously a part of MD5, NSIN is dedicated to forging connections between the defense and civilian sectors. It facilitates problem-solving events, embeds innovators in units and offices across the DoD, and fosters academic engagement.
A component of the Army Futures Command, AAL interfaces with entrepreneurs and tech experts to tackle the Army's most pressing problems.
Responsible for DOD’s adoption of data, analytics, and AI to generate decision advantage from the boardroom to the battlefield.
There are online tools for use in finding available connections across education institutions, corporations and/or direct to the warfighter.
Alignment of the above critical technologies with your service, knowledge, and expertise can change the course of your business, accelerate solving problems and impact national security. Engagement by economic development teams, educational institutions and elected/appointed local officials can drive pathways to leadership and the use of undiscovered talent.
There are people willing and able to help support, align and strengthen relationships. It’s a great time to be alive. Opportunity awaits.