WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s top technology official says Congress is on board with a proposed rapid experimentation reserve, and she expects lawmakers to approve initial funding for the effort in fiscal 2022.
The Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve is a new initiative from the U.S. Department of Defense’s research and engineering shop meant to address high-need capability gaps across the military. From more than 200 proposals, the department has selected 32 projects and hopes to begin demonstrations in fiscal 2023.
To prepare for those demos, the department needs funding in fiscal 2022 it didn’t include in its budget proposal. Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu told reporters today she expects Congress to deliver on a late request from the Pentagon to add funding in the forthcoming appropriations bill.
“They’re actually plussing me up more than I asked for,” Shyu said during a Defense Writers Group event.
Shyu wouldn’t say how much money she asked Congress to add for RDER in fiscal 2022. Asked what the department included in its fiscal 2023 program objective memorandum, she said only that it was less than $1 billion.
“It doesn’t have to be very big at all,” she said. “For a small chunk of money, we can move the needle quite a bit.”
Shyu’s office has been light on details about the projects included in the first round of RDER demonstrations. The 32 efforts include a range of classified and unclassified technology needs, but Shyu declined today, when pressed, to offer any examples.
Speaking more broadly about future funding, Shyu said the department’s fiscal 2023 research and development budget will build on last year’s $112 billion request, which was about 5% higher than what Congress appropriated in fiscal 2021.
Although she didn’t offer details about what would be included in the request, Shyu said her priorities include areas like hypersonic weapons, autonomy and microelectronics. Her office plans to release more details on her top technology priorities as soon as next week.
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.