Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said Tuesday the new rapid experimentation campaign to address joint warfighting capability gaps is aimed at solving the department’s “complicated system” for transitioning promising new technologies into actual programs.

Hicks told the Defense Writers Group the new Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER) program to fund the emerging technology experimentation is part of a concerted effort to address the department’s “infamous valley of death” challenge.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks reacts to the start of her Senate confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2021. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

“RDER is, more than anything, a process inside the building we use to connect joint concepts to innovative solutions to address those concepts that we can experiment with. So it gets to a particular portion or slice of the innovation lifecycle,” Hicks said. “You could not have a more complicated system probably than what we have in DoD in terms of the hand off across that sort of innovation approach.”

The first iteration of the joint experimentation campaign, which will help identify promising prototyping initiatives aimed at specific joint warfighting capability gaps, is set to start in FY ‘23 with 32 projects sourced from the military services (Defense Daily, Nov. 8).

Hicks said success from the RDER effort will be directly reflected in future funding priorities, with the program allowing OSD the opportunity to fund innovative efforts alongside the military services’ own research and development initiatives.

“What RDER does is it brings those solutions to me so I can tee up for the secretary [of defense] that these are solutions that are worth us investing some [dollars] against. We decide to do that and then you see it in the budget. There’s no mystery in that,” Hicks said. “Across the [FY] ‘23 budget [request], there are a variety of experiment elements that are nested inside different components overseen in execution by [USD] R&E. And those [technologies] that do transition, they will show up as a [program line] in a service.” 

Heidi Shyu, the under secretary of defense for research and engineering, said last month planning for the second rapid experimentation sprint in FY ‘24, where the department will solicit industry’s ideas, is likely set to begin within the next few weeks (Defense Daily, March 7). 

“We are exactly at that point where [Heidi Shyu] is soliciting from industry,” Hicks told reporters Tuesday.