JUST IN: Pentagon to Kick Off New Prototyping Projects with Allies

By Jon Harper

iStock photo

HONOLULU, Hawaii — The Defense Department will soon announce new projects for the recently launched Allied Prototyping Initiative, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer said March 10.

The office of the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering launched the initiative earlier this year. The aim was to boost international cooperation in military research and development by expanding prototyping opportunities on a shared-contribution basis between the United States and its closest partners.

“The department expects to announce the first API projects later this month, with the hope that the end result will be interoperable prototypes developed on an equitable basis, delivered to coalition forces faster, and with a demonstrated potential for co-production,” Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said at the Pacific Operational Science and Technology (POST) Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Pentagon’s research and engineering office also oversees the Foreign Comparative Testing program, which seeks to find and field cutting edge technologies from allies and partners to achieve cost and schedule savings, increased performance and novel approaches to capability development, Lord noted during pre-recorded video remarks.

“The goal is to strengthen alliances by sourcing solutions to defense problems through a two-way street of defense procurement — especially with partners like we have in the INDOPACOM region,” she said.

Since its inception about 40 years ago, the testing initiative has led to procurement for 281 projects worth over $11 billion, she noted.  The department has utilized foreign procurements under the program, and has been able to accelerate fielding by an average of two to four years, she said.

Lord’s acquisition and sustainment office is also pursuing other efforts to deepen engagement on acquisition with allies and partners.

The "culture is shifting to integrate early planning for exportability into our requirements and acquisition systems, ensuring that DoD programs plan for technology sharing and foreign sales from the outset,” she said. The efforts are partly aimed at strengthening the U.S. defense industrial base, she noted.

“Only through applying common technology to our platforms and weapon systems can we be interoperable,” she said. Joint interoperability is critical for executing the National Defense Strategy in the INDOPACOM region and elsewhere, she added.

Cooperation with allies and partners is one of the three pillars of the strategy, which identified China and Russia as great power competitors and the top national security threats.

“Healthy competition is good for innovation, but to maintain our military competitive edge, we must work together with industry, government, academia, national labs, startups, and of course our partners and allies,” Lord said.

The POST Conference is an annual confab hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association and Indo-Pacific Command. It brings together top officials from the U.S. military, foreign governments from the Asia-Pacific region and industry, for unclassified and classified presentations and meetings to discuss critical technologies and other initiatives of mutual interest.

Despite international fears about the global spread of the coronavirus, about 720 people from 10 nations are attending this year’s conference, according to Martin Lindsey, science and technology adviser for INDOPACOM.

Concerns about China are a major theme at the gathering. Retired Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, president and CEO of NDIA, noted that the Chinese government is investing heavily in science and technology and military modernization to counter the United States and its allies.

Steps need to be taken to ensure the United States and its partners don’t lose their military edge, he said.

“Part of that is innovation and technology and how we get to the next level,” Carlisle said. “That’s why this [conference] is so important.

“We had an incredible innovation and technology gap against all adversaries. That is eroding, as we all know,” he added. “We’re still the greatest fighting force in the world, in my opinion. We still have the greatest technology … but we also know that [the Chinese are] doing everything in their power to narrow that gap and eventually try to overtake us. We cannot let that happen.”

Topics: Acquisition, Defense Department, Emerging Technologies

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