WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s new acting research chief wants to provide the department’s vast research and development enterprise with a “north star road map” amid an effort to adopt emerging technologies ahead of adversaries.

Speaking on a webinar hosted by Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, newly installed acting Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Kratsios said that he will focus on providing top-level guidance to the host of organizations that make up the Defense Department’s R&D efforts. Those organizations include the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and service laboratories.

Kratsios said a team of principal directors are working to establish road maps for individual technologies.

“To me, what’s critical is that R&E can serve as a place where we can sort of adjudicate disagreements between individual organizations, make sure they’re working on these that complement each other, making sure that similar research isn’t being done at multiple different labs,” Kratsios said Thursday in his first public speech since taking over the office from Michael Griffin, who left the position in July.

The Pentagon’s R&E team has laid out several modernization priorities that include emerging technologies, including advancements in hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, 5G network connectivity and cyberspace. As different components across the department advance the maturity of these technologies, Kratsios said, his office will ensure modernization areas are not siloed.

“The way that we succeed and provide the best tools for the war fighter is understanding that these technologies are going to interact with one another,” Kratsios said. “Even when, for example, you want to launch a hypersonic missile, that requires so much other important technology that all needs to be done and working together in concert. So for me, it’s really building those relationships between those individual modernization priorities and making sure they don’t remain stovepiped.”

Kratsios still serves as the U.S. chief technology officer at the White House, a position he’s held since August 2019. He has advised President Donald Trump on technology issues since early 2017. In that experience, Kratsios said, he’s learned about the importance of looking across R&D efforts throughout the federal government, pointing to the research done by the National Science Foundation or the Energy Department on artificial intelligence as examples.

“What I’ve learned is that in order to get the most out of the federal government’s technology ecosystem to drive innovation ... you need to be better coordinated across all aspects of the ecosystem,” Kratsios said.

Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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