IT and Networks

DoD budget highlights technology for military's future

In President Barack Obama's 2016 federal budget, Defense Department priorities include a number of tech-focused initiatives that officials hope will start to mold the military of the future.

DoD's $585 billion budget request looks to undo the damage of sequestration by modernizing the military and many of its aging systems, as well as by training and equipping a smaller, more agile force. The budget includes billions in science, technology, research and development spending, and outlines investments for improving acquisition and driving innovation.

"The budget finishes the job of reversing mindless austerity budgeting and makes needed investments in key priorities, even while setting the nation on a fiscally responsible course," the budget documents state. "The proposed increases in the discretionary budget caps make room for a range of domestic and security investments that will help move the nation forward."

The base budget for DoD's procurement and research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E) accounts, along with National Nuclear Security Administration funding, calls for $190 billion in spending, an increase of $22 billion or 13 percent over the 2015 enacted level. That includes more than $80 billion in RDT&E-specific spending across DoD components.

"With this funding, the administration is prioritizing investments in cybersecurity; missile defense; nuclear deterrence; space; precision strike; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and air and sea capabilities for projecting power and operating in denied environments," the budget documents state.

The emphasis on technological superiority is the centerpiece for efforts like the Defense Innovation Initiative, announced late last year in pursuit of "breakthrough technologies and new concepts of operations to enhance the U.S. military's dominance," according to the documents.

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work highlighted the Defense Innovation Initiative in a Jan. 28 appearance in Washington.

"It will put new resources behind innovation and you will see that in our budget. But it also accounts for today's fiscal realities by focusing our investments that will sharpen our military edge even as we have to contend with fewer resources," Work said.

Elsewhere in the budget, investment in advanced technologies underscores the tech-dominance theme with more than $11.5 billion toward basic and applied research and advanced technology development, including $3 billion for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In another example, the budget's Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative provides $26.4 billion to accelerate modernization of DoD systems, and also provides resources for manned and unmanned aircraft, ground vehicles and communications systems.

In the broader federal budget, President Obama requested $350 million for seven new manufacturing institutes across the government, including one at DoD, although no further details were made available.

In the Air Force alone, $1.7 billion is directed toward space procurement and nearly $2 billion is allocated for electronics and telecommunications procurement.

Across DoD, the budget accounts for some $37.3 billion in IT spending, an increase of $1 billion over 2015.

Outside of direct technology spending, officials are targeting acquisition reform, including by expanding the ongoing Better Buying Power program and allocating $491 million for the DoD Acquisition Workforce Development Fund.

"Generating more value out of each defense dollar is a critical goal of DoD's ongoing efforts to improve the defense acquisition system, operate with greater efficiency and achieve audit readiness," the documents state.

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