14 May 15. The military has two jobs for America: to fight today’s wars and to prepare to fight the wars of the future, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in West Point, New York, today.
More than ever, the military is going to have to harness the power of all aspects of America’s economy — including private industry — to field the pre-eminent force of the future, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. told an audience of military, industry and government officials attending the Joint Service Academy Cyber Security Summit at the U.S. Military Academy.
Driving the shift is a movement of money from public or government research and development to private sources, Winnefeld said.
“All of you here today from industry are part of a revolution in commercial technology that is changing our world,” he said. “You are also part of a post-Cold War shift in innovation from an R&D economy driven primarily by federal investment to an innovation economy driven by private investment.”
Research and Development
Although research and development is the seed corn for tomorrow’s capabilities, DoD’s investment in it has fallen precipitously, the admiral noted. The department’s fiscal year 2016 science and technology budget request is about $12.3 billion. Meanwhile, Winnefeld said, Google today has more than twice the capitalization of General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed and Raytheon combined. “Tim Cook could pay cash for the entire defense industry,” he added.
Comparing federal to nonfederal R&D over the last 20 years, the admiral said, illustrates how dramatically innovation has shifted toward the commercial sector since the Cold War.
And while U.S. investment has declined, potential adversaries have begun erasing the advantage the United States once held, the vice chairman said.
Closing the Technology Gap
“They’ve either watched what we’ve done, or have read about what we’ve done, or have just gone about stealing what we’ve done from our own defense-contractor and, in some cases, military networks,” Winnefeld said. “We’re hemorrhaging information at a dizzying rate, evidenced by the uncanny similarity of some of our potential adversaries’ new platforms to those we’ve been developing. In your business, industrial espionage is illegal. In mine, it can be fatal.”
The U.S. military strategy depends on overmatching capabilities to deter enemies or, if deterrence fails, to quickly overwhelm adversaries, he said.
Access to Technology
Adversaries have also tapped into the global technology market for microelectronics, which gives them access to some of the same technology as the United States, the admiral said.
“Today, 96 percent of our most advanced electronic warfare systems are assembled with commercially available components,” Winnefeld said. “We only add 4 percent worth of ‘special sauce.'” That means adversaries can quickly copy advanced U.S. systems with globally sourced components, he added.
“Our pacing threats are now only a step or two away from technological parity,” he said. “Our margins are thinner in many places than they’ve ever been.”
Cooperation is Foundational
Maintaining U.S. technological superiority will require a robust and enduring relationship between the department and the innovators in the commercial technology economy, the admiral said. This cooperation “is foundational” to the American military, he added. Through interaction, “the department can better harness the fruits emerging from it,” Winnefeld said.
Doing this is one of the goals of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s Defense Innovation Initiative, the vice chairman said, adding that it’s no surprise that people are the heart of the solution.
Regaining the Margin Over Adversaries
“By concentrating on getting the most qualified people we can find into our business, becoming more efficient from a business perspective, and integrating new kinds of technology and adopting new operational concepts, we intend to regain our margin over our near-peer adversaries,” Winnefeld said.
Cyber is a significant part of the Defense Innovation Initiative, the admiral said, a domain that influences all other domains of warfare. The department must draw closer to these companies to exploit emerging technologies, he told the audience.
Defense Innovation Unit X
“We’re creating a first-of-its-kind unit in Silicon Valley called Defense Innovation Unit X,” Winnefeld said. “It will be staffed by some of our brightest active duty and civilian personnel and augmented by a new reserve unit custom-designed for those who work as technologists in their civilian life.”
The reservists will strengthen the connection between the Defense Department and the firms and startups of Silicon Valley and to help scour for new technologies, he explained.
“We are also starting a DoD branch of the U.S. Digital Service, an elite group of programmers who helped fix healthcare.gov, beginning a partnership with In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm and reorienting the Secretary’s Fellows Program, which allows some of our best uniformed personnel to gain experience in companies like Oracle, Cisco and FedEx,” he said.
Force of the Future
The Force of the Future — another Carter initiative — will chip away at the wall between the military and industry, Winnefeld said, and will capitalize on new National Guard and reserve units.
“Let’s say you’re one of the dynamo cyber warriors at [U.S. Cyber Command], who after several years of service is itching to found a startup or join a company out in the Bay Area,” Winnefeld said. “By the time the secretary’s future of the force initiative is complete, that cyber dynamo may no longer face a ‘stay or leave’ binary choice. He or she will be able to leave but then join a reserve unit based right at Moffett Field, in the heart of Silicon Valley, or come back to the department for a year as a civilian [information technology] expert.”
“The whole point is to make the department more permeable to talent,” the vice chairman added.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)