IT/Networks

Pentagon tech office asks industry for ‘leap-ahead capabilities’

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office wants industry to pitch “highly innovative” technologies that could benefit war fighters in future wars.

The office, which focuses on prototyping technologies for DoD modernization priorities, released its 2021 Global Needs Statement on March 24 on beta.sam.gov. The office wants to hear from companies about products across these priority areas: artificial intelligence/machine learning; autonomy; biotechnology; cyber; directed energy; fully networked command, communication, and control; hypersonics; microelectronics; quantum; space; 5G; and other disruptive technologies.

“RRTO is looking for highly innovative technologies that have the potential to provide leap-ahead capabilities against near-peer adversaries and fill gaps in critical joint mission needs no later than 2028,” the document said.

RRTO will hold meetings this fall with companies. The office is looking for technologies that have demonstrated a proof of concept or have been validated in a lab. The goal is to prototype the innovation to a technology readiness level 6, or a “relevant environment demonstration,” and transition it to an interested service or agency.

“Solutions are expected to derive from companies’ internal research and development (IR&D) or other research efforts and suitable for maturation through DoD prototyping funding, but not mature enough to be Commercial Off-the-Shelf products,” the solicitation stated.

Just this week, defense officials and lawmakers called for increased investment in basic research and commercial capabilities. Defense Innovation Unit Director Mike Brown said that the slowing of federal research and development funds must be countered by commercial technology investment.

“Federal R&D is declining as a percentage of the economy, [and] it’s flattening out in dollar terms,” Brown said during a webcast. “Meanwhile, the commercial sector has moved ahead quite dramatically.”

The department also recently established a center of excellence in California for networked command, control and communications as part of an effort to develop large-scale communications networks that can enable the Pentagon’s joint war-fighting concept.

A recently released report by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence warned that the U.S. needs to boost investment in research and development in AI, also sounding the alarm on the lack of manufacturing in the U.S. for microelectronics, which underpin technologies like artificial intelligence and 5G networks. The report recommended federal tax credits for companies that invest in domestic microelectronics production.

Officials this week said that the U.S. government needs to be more assertive in influencing investment in these technology areas, while boosting federal research and development funds, including the pool for defense projects.

“Defense-funded, basic, early-stage and applied research helps us maintain our competitive edge on the battlefield, but also improves civilians lives,” said Rep. Jim Langevin, R-R.I, on a webinar. “I urge my colleagues to support defense research as much as possible. It pays untold dividends going forward.”

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