DOD to host industry briefing on new rapid experimentation effort

By Briana Reilly / July 14, 2022 at 12:07 PM

The Pentagon's technology chief plans to brief industry officials later this month on the Defense Department's new rapid experimentation effort that aims to identify, demonstrate and transition promising military capabilities.

Through the July 26 industry day, participants will learn about the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve and the capability challenges and technical priorities that officials are working toward under the initiative, a DOD press release said today. The date was first announced in a listing published last week.

Aiming to foster prototyping and experimentation, as well as match joint concepts with solutions, the five-year RDER push was first announced by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks last summer. While it’s been touted by DOD leaders since, few details have been shared publicly about which projects RDER will fund, how companies’ offerings would be leveraged and when demonstrations associated with the effort will take place.

“The private sector will play a key role in the RDER initiative,” Heidi Shyu, under secretary of defense for research and engineering, said in today's release. “Engagements like these are essential to ensure that we all understand the warfighting challenges and solicit the most creative ideas from industry.”

The industry day, slated to occur at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD, would come before the first of two so-called “sprints” tied to RDER in fiscal year 2023, in which the Joint Staff, services and combatant commands come together to evaluate how well planned prototypes would close certain capability gaps, Shyu said during a congressional hearing in April.

At the time, Shyu said she hoped to see technology demonstrations in 2023 and 2024 before capabilities are pushed out in 2025 -- a compressed timeline that she noted “could accelerate the capability from innovators all the way to fielding.”

Under the Biden administration’s FY-23 budget request, officials are requesting $70 million for RDER in FY-23, followed by $71 million in FY-24, $75 million in FY-25, $79 million in FY-26 and $82 million in FY-27. The military services have also requested their own dollars to support RDER projects.

At the DOD level for FY-23, $48.5 million of the requested $70 million in research and development funds would go toward joint warfighting concept experiments in fires; command and control; information advantage; and contested logistics, according to the budget documents.

“This will provide funding for certain individual capability experiments and experimentation series that support capabilities to enable the JWC supporting concepts, also known as the ‘functional battles,’” the listing notes. “Experiment proposals will be evaluated and selected in the prior fiscal year.”

Shyu has previously said officials have selected 32 different projects to take part in the initial sprint.

Industry executives seeking to participate in the end-of-month briefing have until July 20 to RSVP, according to the notice.