SAN DIEGO — The Naval Postgraduate School and wireless specialist Qualcomm Technologies inked a cooperative research agreement to explore 5G, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, some of the U.S. Defense Department’s most pressing priorities.

The collaboration, announced Feb. 13, aims to inform the digital pursuits of the Navy and Marine Corps, while also engaging school faculty and students with some of the private sector’s leading scientists and engineers.

“The core of warfighter development at NPS is preparing leaders to solve complex problems,” the school’s president, retired Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau, said in a statement. “This cooperative effort between NPS and Qualcomm Technologies is a great opportunity for our warrior-scholar students and defense-expert faculty to experiment with the latest 5G-enabled technologies and collaboratively explore innovative solutions to the issues faced by our Navy and Marine Corps.”

The partnership is facilitated by what’s known as a cooperative research and development agreement, or CRADA, which allows the U.S. government to engage nonfederal entities. Qualcomm is the latest of the school’s industry partners; in May, the Navy cut a deal with Microsoft to see its newest tools before they hit the market.

Focus areas of the newly announced deal reflect the military’s ambitions to spend billions of dollars on seamless connectivity and computer augmented decision-making. The spending comes as the U.S. shifts its gaze away from the Middle East, after years of counterinsurgency campaigns, and toward technologically savvy China and Russia.

At least one Navy official has in the last year described 5G as a “great enabler” that is “more, better, faster.” Fifth-generation wireless technology is expected to provide greater speeds and bandwidth, potentially improving logistics ashore and networking at sea.

Service officials are also leaning into artificial intelligence and autonomy — perhaps best exemplified by Task Force 59, which in December concluded a three-week event dedicated to unmanned systems in Bahrain.

The Navy is “creating a culture that nurtures innovation and drives our competitive advantage,” according to the service’s chief information officer, Aaron Weis. The NPS-Qualcomm partnership is “another step in the right direction,” he added, and “will identify promising emerging commercial technologies so we can rapidly adopt them for full-scale implementation.”

Terms of the joint research deal also include the establishment of an innovation lab at the Naval Postgraduate School campus in Monterey, California.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro in December teased the creation of another innovation center, concentrating “on the truly transformational technology that we need, not just two years, five years down the road, but 10, 15 years down the road.”

Initial areas of interest, Del Toro said at the time, included AI and machine learning.

Colin Demarest was a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covered military networks, cyber and IT. Colin had previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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