It’s going to take innovation and invention for the US military to regain undisputed military superiority in all domains, RADM Mark Darrah, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, told more than a hundred attendees at The Patuxent Partnership sponsored briefing: “Advancing Weapons Capabilities in the Multi-Domain Environment.”
“We still have the advantage in Maritime Dominance,” he said, “but our adversaries are very aware of our capabilities and they are continuing to find ways to replicate and counter some of our most unique capabilities.”
Adversaries take US inventions and innovations and devote their efforts toward development and delivery of their own version of those capabilities. In some areas, the enemy has become “faster than us,” RADM Darrah said. “This has challenged our control of parts of the maritime domain and into the position of needing more rapid innovation and invention. We have got to find a way to deliver innovative capability much more quickly to the warfighter.”
There’s “nothing stopping” the US from doing this, RADM Darrah said, “other than administrative processes and excuses about how hard it is or how much it will cost.”
Invention VS Innovation
Invention is the creation of a new product or process, RADM Darrah said, describing how contractors could best help DoD reclaim unrivaled military superiority. It’s something that is created or made for the first time.
Innovation improves on or makes significant contributions towards a new use of an invention. RADM Darrah described the co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, as an innovator. “His company did not invent the personal computer or the cell phone, but their innovations changed the landscape in those arenas.”
“How do you make us better?” RADM Darrah asked the room of Navy personnel and defense contractors. It’s not necessarily new weapons, he said, it may be that what we need is for existing legacy weapons and systems to communicate with one another and operate collaboratively.
A step the Navy is taking toward this goal is establishing a more “role based execution approach,” which RADM Darrah described as an “epiphany: We must stop talking about the platform and start discussing the role of systems within multiple kill chains.” He explained innovation as using data as the basis for decisions instead of limiting decisions to each separate platform. Warfare decisions need to be based upon which asset, across all domains, can most effectively reach the target. For that to work, knowledge must be made accessible across the assets and across the domains.
Funding can be divisive, separating domains relating to the same targets. This needs to be adjusted as well to make it easier for inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs to access government contracting opportunities. That is the idea behind Innovation and Modernization PAX, IMPAX.
Mike Williamson, PEO (U&W) Advanced Development Lead, is standing up the IMPAX program outside the fence near the growing campus of the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center and the St. Mary’s Regional Airport. The combined effort out of NAWCAD and the Georgia Technology Research Institute is designed to bring technology from industry, academia and government rapidly to the warfighter as a capability. That’s Space, Cyber, Air, Surface, and Sub-surface with the goal of rapidly testing, prototyping and bringing innovation to the fleet in months, not years, Mr. Williamson said. IMPAX is one way to renew the focus on invention and innovation, and keeping the U.S. advantage.
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