Pentagon plans review of U.S. 'technology industrial base'

By Justin Doubleday / June 14, 2018

The Pentagon, on the heels of completing a review of its manufacturing industrial base, will soon begin studying whether U.S. industry is prepared to deliver the game-changing technologies the Defense Department seeks to field in the future.

DOD is embarking on a "technology industrial base review" this year to assess whether the United States can meet goals laid out in the Pentagon's forthcoming modernization strategy, according to Kristen Baldwin, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for systems engineering. Her boss, Under Secretary for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin, has identified 10 technology focus areas derived from the National Defense Strategy and is due to complete roadmaps associated with each area this summer.

Baldwin said her office would lead the review alongside DOD's office of manufacturing industrial base policy.

She said the study would build off the manufacturing industrial base review completed this past spring by the Pentagon. But while that study looked at U.S. industrial capacity to meet current defense needs, the new review will first examine "modernization areas that will emerge in the near future," Baldwin told reporters today following a keynote address at a National Defense Industrial Association conference in Washington.

"First we'll have to get a baseline understanding of what the technology industrial base looks like now, and then given our vision for that modernization, what is the type of the industrial base that the department would need?" she said. "Where are any gaps and where would any investments need to be made?"

The 10 priority technology areas Griffin has identified are hypersonics; directed energy; command, control and communications; space offense and defense; cybersecurity; artificial intelligence/machine learning; missile defense; quantum science and computing; microelectronics; and nuclear modernization.

Given some of those areas, Baldwin said the new review would address commercial companies and non-traditional defense partners, while other areas will rely on "traditional defense primes that we want to continue to grow and maintain." Griffin has said big defense contractors "are not largely the innovators you seek."  

The Pentagon's review will need to address how "a chunk of our manufacturing has gone offshore," according to Baldwin. For example, microelectronics manufacturing has largely moved outside U.S. borders, but DOD and other federal agencies are working on programs to bring some of that back within the country. She said the Pentagon plans to invest $2 billion in microelectronics between fiscal year 2019 and FY-23 under a new program, microelectronics innovation for national security and economic competitiveness.

"Programs like that to transform and re-energize a focus on manufacturing in the U.S. will continue," Baldwin said during her keynote address.

Meanwhile, the technology roadmaps are still under development, Baldwin confirmed, and will be incorporated into DOD's fall program review. They will then be funded in DOD's fiscal year 2020 budget request, she said. Earlier this spring, Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan said the Pentagon is seeking "headroom" in the FY-20 budget for new modernization priorities.

Baldwin said the technology roadmaps would contain "a mixture" of classified and unclassified information.

"Once we have those focused investments, some of them will naturally need to be classified because we are seeking to maintain our tech advantage," she said. "We'll have to be very careful about protection of those technology areas, but it's just as important to have partnerships. We will be, just as we always do, working with academia in advancement of these technology areas and with industry in shared development and experimentation and prototyping."