The Defense Department plans to spend between $12 billion and $15 billion in fiscal year 2017 on wargaming, experimentation and demonstrations to prove out the five components of its “third offset” strategy, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said Monday.

The third offset strategy is the Pentagon’s plan to maintain technological superiority in a modern era that includes two superpower adversaries in China and Russia. Work said DoD is focusing for the next year on performing “intellectual underpinning” and as much demonstration work as possible to get key stakeholders, like lawmakers, on board with the effort.

The Triton arriving at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Sept. 18, 2014. Photo: U.S. Navy
The Triton arriving at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Sept. 18, 2014. Photo: U.S. Navy

Work said the five technological “building blocks” for the third offset are: autonomous deep learning systems, human-machine collaboration, assisted human operations, advanced human-machine combat teaming and autonomous weapons. Works said DoD wants autonomous deep learning systems to improve indications of warning and help the military respond at machine speeds, or faster than human reaction, while under attack.

Work used air defense systems, as an example, where an air defense radar calculates which enemy rockets will hit a target and which ones will not to help focus its defenses. He also cited cyber defense and electronic warfare (EW) as prime candidate platforms for autonomous deep learning systems.

“You can’t have a human operator operate at a human speed fighting back a determined cyber attack,” Work said at a Center for New American Security (CNAS) think tank-Defense One event in Washington. “You’re going to [need] a learning machine that does that.”

The second third offset strategy pillar is human-machine collaboration that Work said can simplify the speed of operations by allowing humans to make better decisions faster. Work said the F-35 helmet-mounted display is an example of human-machine collaboration as it can crunch 360 degrees-worth of information and portray it in an advanced way. In the helmet’s case, it displays the info on its head-up display.

Work said the third component of the third offset strategy is assisted human operations to help humans be better in combat. He said an example is the audible tones of a car backing up, telling a driver it is getting close to something. Examples Work gave of assisted human operations include wearable electronics, head-up displays or perhaps exoskeletons.

Advanced human-machine combat teaming is the fourth leg of the third offset strategy, Work said. Human-machine collaboration uses machines to help decision makers make better decisions. Work said DoD is pursuing large capacity unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV) that “cascade” smaller diameter UUVs and form networks. He said another example of human-machine combat teaming is how the Navy’s P-8 aircraft and Triton UAV were designed to work together.

Work said the final third offset strategy pillar is autonomous weapons. He said DoD is modifying existing systems like the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) to operate without Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance. Work said the Pentagon is looking for new methods of over-the-horizon tagging and stand-in airspace jamming.

DoD officials are assembling their FY ’17 budget requests in preparation for a spring release.