R&D cuts are coming despite a global war on terror requiring that "U.S. ground forces must be everywhere doing everything," said David Potts, director of planning and analysis for No. 1 military contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. That means technology companies "must be able to respond more quickly to DOD requirements" that are driven by uncertainty, Potts added.
Those requirements include four basic capabilities: "force protection" technologies needed, for example, to counter IEDs; command and control; "battle space awareness," or the ability to spot threats early and quickly counter them; and the all-encompassing concept of network-centric warfare, in which sensors can pick up and parse threat data, fuse it into useful information and deliver it via ground and space networks to commanders in the field.
About $3 billion of this year's $13.3 billion Pentagon science-and-technology budgetwhich includes basic and applied research along with advanced-technology developmentgoes to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa). Janos of Northrop Grumman said the DOD's "reorientation of capabilities" means that Darpa research will focus on "robust, secure, self-forming networks" and other net-centric capabilities with direct application on the battlefield.
The military services are also pouring more R&D dollars into the nuts and bolts of next-generation military networks. As part of its shift to space and cyberspace operations, the Air Force is spending heavily on technologies like data links, data fusion and secure communications, Janos said.
The Air Force's Electronic Systems Center announced last week it has signed a cooperative R&D agreement with Northrop Grumman to collaborate on net-centric technologies. The two-year research agreement will focus on joint net-centric operations and will culminate in a demonstration of multiplatform operations among the three military branches.
Meanwhile, the Navy is investing in power electronics and sensor technologies. A key research priority for the Army as it seeks to improve force protection is developing robots with greater autonomy. Janos said unmanned ground vehicles that require several operators won't cut it in a ground force that is already stretched to its limit.
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