WASHINGTON, D.C. — Science and technology chiefs for each service and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency urged a united effort with military, academia and industry to develop a "new technology offset" that will reverse the loss of technological superiority and overcome the resulting erosion of operational capabilities.
At times, such collaboration can be akin to fitting a square peg in a round hole.
This was evident when Alan Shaffer, principal deputy for the assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, declared that, in light of continuing budget cuts, a smaller force with exquisite capabilities is better than a larger force with hollow capabilities.
One industry attendee countered that "quantity has a quality all its own."
Steven Walker, DARPA's deputy director, offered a middle ground on the issue of quality vs. quantity. He affirmed a potential worth of high numbers when it comes to small, low-cost technologies, but said there still is a place for high-end systems.
But that is the past.
Shaffer said he does not know what the next offset strategy will be, but is confident it will revolve around an increased use of autonomous or semi-autonomous platforms.
Shaffer also stressed the need for interoperability of technologies among services and allies, enhanced use of models and simulation, and the need to constantly push prototypes to the fleet for interim operational use and feedback that can help make realistic course corrections throughout development.
All the chiefs agreed that solutions must be user-friendly, as troops are getting buried by information overload and increasingly complex controls.
While the technology offset is worked out, research departments must continue to deal with current and anticipated threats, Shaffer said. Specifically, he said "we've got to do more" in cyber, counter-space technologies, simultaneous cruise and ballistic missile defense, and electronic warfare. Regarding the latter, we've entered an era where nations can "negate a lot of our high-end assets," he said.
Ultimately, scientists and researchers have to step up and "create technology surprise for our adversaries and potential adversaries," Shaffer told those assembled. "Give them something to think about. Give them something to worry about."