Science and Technology News

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Strategic Guidance Drives DOD Science Enterprise, Officials Say

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

The Defense Department’s new strategic guidance drove science and technology budget requests that include funding for projects ranging from hypersonics to electronic warfare, DOD officials told a congressional panel today.

Zachary Lemnios, assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, and Kaigham J. Gabriel, deputy director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, explained to the House Armed Services Committee how science and technology factor into military planning.

The president’s $11.9 billion request for DOD science and technology, Lemnios said, provides the resources needed to maintain a decisive technological edge for today’s challenges and the foundation to surpass the most lethal and disruptive future threats.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, released the Defense strategic guidance in January, and Lemnios said he began reviewing DOD science and technology priorities about a year earlier.

As a result of the review, DOD officials realigned several projects in the president’s budget request, he said, pushing hypersonics, an advanced Air Force engine, target-acquisition imagers for the Army, elements of electronic warfare and DARPA funding for manufacturing.

“We shaped this budget based on a close look at the projects we had,” he said, “in concert with the department’s strategy.”

Lemnios said cyber is one of the department’s seven science and technology priorities.

After long conversations with operators, uniformed service members and system users that began about 18 months ago, Lemnios said, “we built a set of architectures, and we’re now working the capability sets to develop that tech base.”

The focus of DOD efforts over the past year, he said, “has been in building a common operating picture so that we understand those networks and we start building the measurements and the test campaign to understand, in fact, how we can use our [science and technology] efforts and transition them.”

Going forward, Lemnios said, “I suspect that you will see in the coming years ways to integrate a larger number of efforts across our networks, and that’s going on right now in the services and certainly at DARPA, in terms of new concepts that are being developed.”

DARPA’s deputy director told the panel, “I could discuss some of the agency’s accomplishments over the last year … but instead what I’d like to talk to you about today is what keeps us up at night.”

Such concerns include advanced computing, imaging and communication capabilities that now are readily available to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and the availability to any consumer as commercial off-the-shelf, or COTS, components, of more than 90 percent of the electronics in an electronic warfare system.

“These insights led us to new investments that leverage COTS technology where we can, and develop technologies where COTS can’t or won’t go,” Gabriel said.

An example is DARPA’s intra-chip enhanced cooling program. Cooling a COTS chip allows the agency “to run the chip 10 times faster than it was designed to run, creating differentiating capabilities for ourselves,” he added.

In cybersecurity, the deputy director said, “there has been much focus on increasing our defensive capabilities. But we require capabilities in both defense and offense across the full spectrum of the conflict.”

Modern warfare demands the effective use of cyber and kinetic means, he said, “and that requires DOD cyber capabilities matched to our kinetic options.”

DARPA has launched several programs designed to create cyber capabilities with the diversity, dynamic range and tempo of DOD operations. One of these is Cyber Fast Track, which taps a pool of nontraditional experts and innovators, many of them members of the ‘white hat’ hacker community.

‘Hacker’ is a positive term that describes a person of exceptional capability and creativity, Gabriel explained, “someone who sees a novel use for an existing capability or technology.”

Over the past seven months, DARPA has received more than 100 proposals and made 32 awards for cyber projects, the deputy director said, 84 percent of them to small companies and performers who have never before done business with the government.

“Cyber Fast Track is expanding the number and diversity of talent contributing to the nation’s cybersecurity,” he added.

In DARPA’s world, cybersecurity is not just about bits and networks, it’s about the security of physical and embedded systems.

From its unique perch, Gabriel said, DARPA can bring together experts from across the spectrum to examine systems not only from the perspective of computer sciences and cybersecurity, but from electronic warfare, embedded systems and computer architecture.

This allows the agency, he added, “to knock down the walls between those stovepipes so we can get an integrated look at the opportunities and threats,” creating new capabilities and solutions that are impossible to get from any one domain.

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