Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks emphasizes the crucial role of a healthy battery supply chain in military capabilities and national security, stating that "America needs to lead the world" in battery technology. Batteries play a vital and dynamic role in delivering effective battlefield operations, securing critical defense supply chains, and driving America's clean energy future. The Defense Department heavily relies on batteries for communication, autonomous vehicles, directed energy weapons, and electrification of warfighting platforms.
Andrew Higier, acting director of the energy portfolio at the Defense Innovation Unit, highlights the challenges posed by the supply chain and integration issues in advanced batteries. The commercial supply chain heavily relies on adversarial nations, resulting in slow, cumbersome, and costly integration of new batteries. The Defense Department's annual procurements of specialized battery designs for critical weapons systems create affordability challenges and limit market capability.
To address these challenges, the Defense Department aims to optimize its buying power by better leveraging the commercial market. The 2022 Securing Defense-Critical Supply Chains report suggests aligning industry and military battery standards across tactical vehicles, unmanned systems, and military installations. This alignment will ensure affordable production of future defense requirements while meeting the needs of warfighters.
The report recognizes the Defense Department's current limitations as an industry partner in battery acquisition. The existing process involves low-volume purchases of bespoke batteries through short-term contracts, with limited consideration for the security of the supply chain. This approach incurs high non-recurring engineering costs and relies on components from less-than-secure sources. By improving the understanding of battery procurement and standardizing where feasible, the Defense Department aims to increase buying power and better inform industry about its future needs.
The Office of Industrial Base Policy (IBP) is collaborating with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) to tap into U.S. and allied partner-based industry innovation and the growing commercial battery market. DIU serves as the commercial solution gateway, leveraging private sector investments in battery development to create scalable products with traditional and non-traditional industry partners. These technology partnerships in advanced batteries ensure the Defense Department keeps pace with industry advancements, moving beyond program-by-program procurement.
Halimah Najieb-Locke, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Resilience, emphasizes the importance of sending a consistent and coherent demand signal to industry. By coordinating efforts and aligning standards, the Defense Department ensures that the batteries used by the military are available, ready, and free from adversarial influence.
To standardize and aggregate battery demand, the following action plan has been proposed:
Bring In Commercial Best of Breed: Source rechargeable battery cells from domestic and allied battery manufacturers to meet DoD storage capacity and performance requirements.
Perfect the Standard Form Factors: Demonstrate high-capacity rechargeable battery packs using standardized cells across various use case categories, including single cell batteries, hand-held devices, soldier-worn equipment, and vehicle battery packs.
Integrate into Critical Platforms: Optionally integrate newly standardized rechargeable batteries into respective devices for performance characterization and testing.
DIU's Jumpstart for Advanced Battery Standardization program is already underway as the first step in bringing the commercial market into defense batteries. This program prototypes commercial electric vehicle (EV) batteries at the module and pack level to inform the integration process into military vehicles and future platform electrification specifications.
The Family of Advanced Standard Batteries (FASTBat) project by DIU focuses on streamlining battery procurement and integration. By aggregating the Defense Department's purchasing power, increasing demand signals to commercial battery manufacturers, and providing approved battery pack form-fit-function, this project aims to address supply chain and design challenges for powering military systems.
The Department of the Navy and IBP have secured significant investments in battery standardization, analytics, and infrastructure. These investments align with the initiatives outlined in the DoD's Lithium Battery Strategy 2023-2030, demonstrating the department's ability to turn strategy into action. Collaboration with the Department of Energy ensures the development of a domestic lithium battery industrial base supported by secure and resilient supply chains.
The FY 2024 defense budget request, aligned with the mission, emphasizes critical investments in revitalizing the defense industrial base, driving innovation, and building enduring advantages. Approximately $6 billion is allocated to foster industrial base resilience, including $125 million for battery and energy storage.
Dr. Laura Taylor-Kale, the recently sworn-in Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy, expresses enthusiasm for working on industrial base and supply chain issues that are central concerns across government and industry. Collaboration with key departmental, interagency, and international partners aims to scale up new advanced manufacturing technology in critical sectors such as batteries, microelectronics, and renewable energy.The Defense Department is committed to ensuring access to critical battery technologies that will power the future force. By prioritizing collaboration, standardization, and leveraging the commercial market, the department aims to address challenges, enhance efficiency, and maintain technological leadership in battery development for military application