The Pentagon started its industry outreach on Wednesday associated with its Long-Range Research and Development Plan (LRRDP), issuing a request for information to begin a dialogue with companies, think tanks, academia and others not typically associated with defense acquisition.

The LRRDP is “meant to identify breakthrough technologies and new capabilities and system concepts that offer opportunities to advance U.S. military power,” Stephen Welby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for systems engineering, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

Stephen Welby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for systems engineering
Stephen Welby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for systems engineering

According to the RFI, the Defense Department “is soliciting this information to focus the study and prioritization of novel or unconventional applications of technology in ways that would provide significant, enduring capability advantage to future U.S. warfighting capabilities in conducting operations against a peer or near-peer competitor. We anticipate using this information to aid in the internal analysis and prioritization of DoD research and development investments.”

Over the next six months, five five-person groups will meet to review the RFI responses related to specific categories: space technology, undersea technology, air dominance and strike technology, air and missile defense technology, and other technology-driven concepts. Welby said the groups, comprised of individuals from throughout the Defense Department’s research and development community, will spend the next several months “mining what’s going on in the technology space and envisioning and imagining future capabilities that those technologies might enable.”

They will not consider any particular enemy or warfighting scenario; rather, they will take a clean sheet approach to “identify novel emergent concepts” and “harvest the potential of these kinds of innovative concepts to inform future strategic capabilities, to ensure a decisive advantage for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines,” he said.

Highlighting just how open-ended the project is, Welby said potential responses might involve U.S. military superiority “through new technologies, it might be through new operational paradigms, new architectures, new system concepts. We’re really kind of asking that broader question about the capability, not about the individual technologies.”

The RFI notes that submissions “should be focused on technology-enabled capabilities that could be matured and would be available to enter formal development in the next 5-10 years, so as to provide an opportunity to offer significant military advantage in the 2025 to 2030 time frame. This focus restricts consideration to 1) relatively mature technologies that may be applied in novel or unique ways to field a fundamentally different type of system capability, 2) emerging technologies that can be rapidly matured to offer new military capability or 3) technologies under development for, or being applied in, non-defense applications which can be repurposed to offer a new military capability.”

Welby said there is no money associated with the RFI, but rather existing science and technology funding would be redirected based on the results of the LRRDP effort.

“Our real goal is to kind of understand those technologies and concepts,” he said. “Dollars will follow, but the most important thing is, what makes a difference? What are those ideas, what are those things that might challenge future threats, that might give a sustained US advantage? We want to identify those first, the resourcing of those kind of follows.”