The Pentagon’s lead technology official on Monday detailed the department’s plans to hold a new annual joint experimentation event beginning in fiscal year 2023 that will test out emerging technologies to address joint warfighting capability gaps.

Heidi Shyu, the under secretary of defense for research and engineering, said her office received over 200 ideas for technologies to participate in the first iteration of the event before paring it down to 32 technology concepts that will be tested in FY ‘23.

Heidi Shyu, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering

“This is pretty exciting. We’ve briefed out to all the services, [DoD senior leaders] and all the [combatant commands], and there was a lot of excitement in terms of what we’re doing,” Shyu said during a discussion at a Carnegie Mellon University virtual event.

The joint experimentation event is part of the Pentagon’s new Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve, or RDER, which aims to help fund prototyping initiatives and help projects bridge the “technology valley of death.” 

“The intent of the RDER initiative is to encourage prototyping and experimentation in order to support joint warfighting concepts, such as the information advantage, joint fires, all-domain command and control and contested logistics. So what we have done is taken the capability gaps we have in those areas and mapped them to specific scenarios. And from that, one of the things that we have done is looked to the services and [combatant commands] and asked them if they have ideas for relatively mature technologies…and they want to bring those prototypes and do a joint experimentation that we’re going to conduct in FY ‘23,” Shyu said.

In late September, Shyu detailed her top priorities for technology areas of development and said the new Innovation Steering group she is leading has the “goal of pushing innovation much, much quicker,” to include new capabilities in the trusted AI and quantum computing space (Defense Daily, Sept. 28). 

Shyu, at the time, also said she’s particularly interested in the progress of directed energy, specifically high energy lasers and high-powered microwaves, and assured software tools. 

To help streamline technology initiatives, Shyu said she is also going through individual projects being worked out of different entities such as DIU, AFWERX, and the Army Applications Laboratory to level set where efforts are in the development process, with the goal of further informing joint capability needs. 

“There are multiple entities all rapidly innovating and doing things. What I’m trying to do is get my arms around it. Who has the best process? Who’s doing what? What problem are they trying to solve? And who have they funded? How well have these technologies or products transitioned? We should be able to share all this information across the board,” Shyu said.