SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY
Q&A with Dr. Martin Lindsey, Science & Technology Advisor to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command
Dr. Martin Lindsey is the principal science and technology Advisor to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. He advises command staff and advocates for S&T activities that better enable warfighters serving in the region to accomplish their assigned missions. He also engages with service and agency laboratories and pursues cooperative efforts with international partners and allies within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Prior to assuming his current duties, Dr. Lindsey retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel with 20 years of service.
He spoke by phone with National Defense Editor in Chief Stew Magnuson after the conclusion of the Pacific Operational Science and Technology (POST) conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, organized by the National Defense Industrial Association. The interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
What are the top three items on your wish list — some technologies that industry can help you with?
A wish list from my seat out here as the science and technology advisor from industry would be of course to address [PACOM Commander Adm. John C.] Aquilino’s priorities for the command, which are all about seizing the initiative in the theater, and making sure that we are postured correctly with the right forces and the right capabilities forward in order to do our contribution to integrated deterrence and be prepared should deterrence fail.
A little more specifically than that, we're obviously very interested in our ability to have a common operational picture and see what's going on throughout the theater — both to allow us to have better indications and warnings of instability as well as to be postured to respond to that.
We need the ability to protect our forces that we project forward. In that regard, [we need] the ability to move and maneuver as we need to move in the theater and protect those forces. That's a high priority.
And of course, should unfortunately we end up in some sort of conflict scenario, the ability to project force longer distances over the horizon from all domains is a big priority for us.
I think those would be kind of the Top Three for industry. I don't want to leave out … collaboration with our allies for all of those areas — as well as industry. That is huge for us. And so we work very hard on increasing those partnerships.
None of those broad areas would have a single solution. Can you drill down further on some specifics? For example, for the common operating picture, are you looking at satellites or robotic systems to carry sensors?
It's a combination of all those things — a multi-domain layered approach — because if we put all our capabilities in one domain or one basket then we just create a new center of gravity for an adversary to make it easy for them to take that away from us.
So definitely satellites. We are keenly interested in increasing the resilience and the robustness of our space-based capabilities. To that end, we follow what's going on with proliferated [low-Earth orbit satellite systems] quite closely and those technology developments both on the government side and the commercial side, because we see both as great contributors to that common operational picture.
You mentioned robotic systems and similarly the rapid advancements in AI-enabled, semi-autonomous human on-the-loop systems. It's very rapidly advancing and so we already see capabilities that are still in the development stage, but they are getting quite close to being suitable for fielding in capacities. And we are already working with the providers of those in the government and industry side to make sure that they will be suited for the vast geographic environment that's out here.
The last thing you mentioned was international cooperation. National Defense has been writing a lot about the Quad [the loose alliance of the United States, Japan, Australia and India] and its potential for cooperation developing technologies What are you doing in those regards? Are you reaching out to the Quad members for more tech cooperation?
We do — and with respect to the all three of the countries you mentioned — we do engage with them and even at POST we had engagements with those countries, and we will continue to follow those up and build off of those.
Specific to the relationship of the Quad and science-and-technology engagement under the auspices of the Quad, we have not to date looked into adding an S&T component into that from where we sit. I can't speak to whether that's going on elsewhere at the [Defense Department] but I find that personally very interesting to ponder: how we might do that. But to date we have not.
Where to you see potential areas of cooperation with these partners?
I don't see areas where we couldn’t potentially cooperate from a technology standpoint If you look at [Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi] Shyu’s top 14 technology priorities — by and large — I can’t find areas within all 14 of those where we could not cooperate with all three of those countries. From our perspective, it's more a vantage of prioritizing scarce resources of time and personnel.
With each country in the Quad, we kind of take a different approach. Our relationship with Australia is very mature and very robust … We work with them in a lot of areas and we have — for lack of a better word — “operationalized” our S&T engagement with our Australian counterparts.
We are working to do the same thing with Japan. We're just kind of starting down that road with them. But we are working in those areas and identifying the areas of mutual cooperation that are priorities.
[With] India, similarly to Japan, we have just kind of scratched the surface again from our office’s perspective. And we are very keen with both of those countries to develop those relationships which starts with just having these conversations from our respective positions. What are our technology priorities at Indo-PACOM from our end and our counterparts in those countries? What are our mutual priorities to collaborate on? All the 14 that Ms. Shyu is prioritizing for the department, I see places where those countries have capabilities, and we could do cooperation with them.
Switching to hypersonics, there are some programs coming to fruition — at least people hope — in the next couple of years. What will be the command’s role in deploying, fielding and testing some of these new hypersonic weapons?
That's one of my personal roles here at the command. I work in the hypersonic technology area.
… So our role here — and this won't be a surprise — is as a combatant command, we establish requirements and prioritize those requirements for what capabilities we need. And obviously, we're on the record: Hypersonics is one of those areas that we need.
As these systems are being developed and matured and are entering into flight tests, we are engaged with those program offices. We are similarly engaged with the [Office of the Secretary of Defense’s], principal director of hypersonics to make sure that as these capabilities … when they are fielded they will be ready for implementation if called upon.
Because we have been working really fast to get capability to the field, we haven't necessarily gone through and stood up and run through the entire whole program-of-record traditional acquisition process because we just don't have the luxury of taking all of that time to make that happen. We need to get capability fielded as soon as we can.
With that in mind, here at the combatant command, we've probably taken on additional roles that we normally would not do to ensure that those capabilities are ready when they hit early operational capability.
And by that, I mean the kind of the roles that you would traditionally just expect the services to do as part of the developmental testing and engineering phase the … type of things that normally the service does before they present a capability. We're not doing all that but we are much more hands on in advising and helping shape the services do that then would be seen in a traditional acquisition.
So what you're saying is pretty much when they think the technology is good to go as far as basic capabilities, you're going to field and test at the same time?
Yes, and that's no different than any acquisition program in the sense of even when you hit an [initial operating capability milestone] that the development, test and evaluation continues while you are going from IOC to fully operationally capable.
The terminology that I see a lot is “early operational capability” as opposed to “initial” and I think the nuance there is again, some of these programs aren't formal acquisition programs, so they just adopt different lingo. But in our minds an “early operational capability” is an “operational capability.” It would be available for use if called upon.
As for the annual Rim of the Pacific international exercise that happens near Hawaii each year, how do you use it to test new technologies? Or is it mostly training on systems you already have?
It's both. The emphasis at RIMPAC is that it's a training exercise — the largest multinational maritime training exercise in the world. But we do experimentation at RIMPAC. It is a Third Fleet-run exercise and it’s naval centric. So the experimentation that takes place is run by and planned and executed by the Navy.
Having said that, Indo-PACOM does contribute to the planning of some of the experimentation — and in cases where we see we have joint experiments that we are interested in — we get more or less hands-on involved depending on specific experiments. And that applies to coalition stuff as well. So we will also support coalition experimentation that we're interested in.
And interoperability with allies is a big part of that?
That's a huge part of it. Both from just the training perspective, as well as testing out new concepts and new technologies.