Pentagon budget maintains support for tech innovation

WASHINGTON — While the Trump administration’s first budget prioritizes near-term readiness over long-term modernization, it maintains support for developing new technologies, particularly from innovative groups focused on innovative ideas.

The budget requests $13.2 billion for the Pentagon’s science and technology operations, 2.3 percent more than was requested in FY17, including $3.1 billion for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The Strategic Capabilities Office gets $1.2 billion, a roughly $300 million increase from what it got under the National Defense Authorization Act. In December, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work told Defense News he expected SCO to get an increase, praising the job done by office head Will Roper.

In the Pentagon documents, SCO is ordered to focus on a specific trio of areas: “enabling systems to cross or blur domains, creating teams of manned and autonomous systems, and leveraging enabling commercial designs and technologies.” Those focus areas are in line with Roper’s recent statements about the future of warfare relying on manned-unmanned teaming.  

For full FY18 budget coverage, click here. 

The outreach to Silicon Valley also continues, with a $45 million budget laid out for the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, office, as well as $60 million for the Defense Technology Innovation effort, which manages engagement with In-Q-Tel. DIUx expects to begin transitioning programs from prototype to full-use within the Pentagon this year.  

But while SCO and DIUx get much of the attention, the $2.2 billion for basic research should not be overlooked, and continues what Mary Miller, the acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, told Defense News was a long-term trend of support for the military laboratories.

“We have been very fortunate in that, for the last 20 years, the leadership, the administration has understood that having a stable budget for research is incredibly essential,” Miller said. “You can’t stop funding something for a period of years, come back and replace all that money, and expect that we’ll be at the same place. We’re…

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