Military scrambles to maintain tech edge
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Short of funds and awash in global challenges, the military-industrial complex is betting on robotics and other new technologies to stay ahead of rapid advances in weapons development by China, Russia and other potential foes.
With budgets under pressure and deeper cuts expected in fiscal 2016, it remains uncertain whether the Pentagon can win support in Congress to speed the acquisition process and turn the new technologies into game-changing weapons.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel introduced a “Defense Innovation Initiative” at a conference at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, an effort to secure and expand the military’s competitive edge.
Hagel cited robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, big data and three-dimensional printing as key areas, but gave none of the funding details that industry executives say they need to guide their investments.
They are urging Pentagon officials to keep slashing back bureaucracy, ease barriers for arms exports, and streamline rules for commercial products.
Mike Petters, chief executive of Huntington Ingalls Industries, said government officials were stepping up their dialogue with industry, but many factors constrained their efforts, including the short-term focus of capital markets.