Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel yesterday said he’s given top DoD officials the green light to develop another “offset” strategy and offered snippets of Better Buying Power 3.0, more of which will be revealed Thursday.

Hagel has tasked Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work to move ahead with an initiative to develop a third “offset” strategy to ensure military superiority, as the technical edge from previous efforts starts to slide.Offset strategies were developed by national security thinkers in the 1950s and 1970s.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance Conference  Photo: DoD
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance Conference
Photo: DoD

Technological advantages that previously had resided only with advanced nations, have now proliferated to non-national militaries and adversary and terrorist groups, he told attendees at the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance conference in Newport, R.I.

The first such offset strategy was the New Look, prioritizing nuclear deterrence. Then came the Long Range Research and Development planning program, which shaped future investments in leap-ahead capabilities like stand-off precision strike, and networked forces.

“As we see those advantages begin to erode, I’ve asked Bob to move forward with an initiative to develop a third game-changing offset strategy,” Hagel said.

Key to the effort will be Frank Kendall, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L), who “will soon convene a long range research and development planning aimed at assuring our technological edge in the next several decades.”

Given the current budget environment, innovation will be critical–“we must be innovative not only in the technologies we buy, but also how we buy them, but also how we use them in order to reach our operational and strategic objectives,” Hagel said.

Hagel warned that in the 21st century, it cannot be assumed that the United States will be the sole source of key breakthrough technologies. Today it is often the commercial sector and small business that are increasingly coming up with technological change in areas such as robotics, advanced computing, nanotechnology and 3-D printing.

DoD must be able to assess which commercial products have military potential, “rapidly adopt them, adapt them and then test and refine them,” he said.

For a third offset strategy to succeed, industry must have the right opportunities and incentives to develop and operationalize the kind of innovative technologies that the military requires for the future.

That’s why DoD’s Better Buying Power 3.0 (BBP 3.0) will be focused on innovation and accelerating the flow of technology to the military, he said as he previewed some of the strategy for the first time.

Declining budgets won’t allow for repeating past mistakes, Hagel said, meaning DoD must be creative and innovative. Kendall is expected to provide more details when he speaks to the conference today. Over the next several weeks, the plan will be formally released.

“Better Buying Power 3.0 will ensure that our acquisition system helps achieve technical dominance through excellence and innovation, getting the best technology for our people at the best cost to the taxpayer and as quickly as possible,” he said.

Hagel listed four examples of new BBP 3.0 initiatives: more use of modular and open systems architectures; providing industry with draft requirements earlier; removing obstacles to procuring commercial items; and improving our technology search and outreach in global markets.

Other new initiatives will focus on helping small businesses and start-ups succeed.

“These firms are more than just the engine of the American economy as you all know, many are represented here today they help drive American discovery, creativity, and innovation,” Hagel said. About 20 percent of DoD acquisition dollars go to small businesses, a number that has been increasing steadily for the past few years.”

However, he said, small businesses can be particularly vulnerable when production rates decline.

Another important part of Better Buying Power 3.0 will expand DoD’s use of prototyping.

“In times of reduced budgets, prototyping furthers technical advances in R&D, it helps keep us ahead of the threat, and reduces risk by lowering lead times in the event we go forward with production.,” he said. “Importantly, it also allows us to preserve design teams during any long periods between new product development programs.”

Aiming to reduce some barriers to these acquisition efforts, DoD has worked with Congress over the past several months developing a legislative proposal to streamline these requirements to focus more on “principle rather than process.”

The goal is to reduce unnecessary paperwork so that acquisitions professionals can spend more time doing their job of getting the best equipment and best technology to our troops at the best value to our taxpayer.

“We hope to submit our proposal to Congress by the end of this calendar year, and look forward to building on this collaboration as we go forward,” he said.

Innovation is required not only to meet the crises that seem to appear every day, but for the future, he said.

“The stakes are too high, the consequences too dire for us to stand by and let other nations challenge our dominance,” Hagel said. “To retain our superiority in the future, our thinking and our actions must be relevant to tomorrow’s challenges.  We will not fail this historic charge.”