DoD shows movement on third offset with DARPA

The Defense Department’s advanced research arm is searching for futuristic technologies in line with the Pentagon’s third offset strategy, signaling movement in the department’s year-old blueprint.

A recent announcement by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency seeks ideas and disruptive technologies in the areas of electronic warfare, battle management command and control, maritime systems and other areas.

The subject areas are ones that fit within the department’s third offset strategy, which is aimed at maintaining the United States’ military technological superiority.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said earlier this month that the third offset strategy will need top-down governance, war gaming experimentation and demonstration.

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Work said the fiscal 2017 budget will probably see between $12 billion and $15 billion in investments for the offset strategy.

That may be why DARPA is testing the waters for some of the technologies DoD is interested in using to advance its superiority.

DARPA has traditionally been the go-to agency for developing technologies that might be used far into the future.

The agency has gained a lot of attention for its work on an “Iron Man” suit similar to the one popularized by movies and comic books.

DARPA’s announcement is manned by its strategic technology office, which is focused on technologies that enable fighting as a network to increase military effectiveness, cost leverage and adaptability.

The office has research programs in the works dealing with high-powered laser weapons systems, undersea network connectivity and mobility hot spots.

Subjects in the announcement, like battle management command and control, will “develop and incorporate realistic assumptions concerning allocation of functions between human operators and automated systems.”

Research areas in electronic warfare are intended to counter adversaries through “technologies such as distributed systems, coherent systems, disposable systems providing asymmetric capabilities, and close-in remote sensing coupled with advanced jamming and spoofing.”

The announcement also notes that the U.S. military has become accustomed to collecting large quantities of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data. In contested environments, however, new approaches are needed to provide sensors that will survive and are hard for the enemy to detect. The announcement also states DARPA is interested in new approaches for low-cost, adaptable sensors that leverage commercial technologies and processes to reduce development time and cost.

DARPA is expecting proposals and abstracts from companies by Dec. 21, 2016.

DoD has been working on its third offset for about a year. It has invested in a Defense Innovation Unit X, which is based out in Silicon Valley and is used to scout out new technologies and develop relationships with technology companies in the area.

DoD’s use of offsets obviously is not new, considering this is the third version.

The first offset birthed the U.S. philosophy of strategic deterrence through the creation of a stockpile of nuclear weapons.

For the second, the military launched a long-range strategy to build the networked, precise weapons systems that dominated the battlefield in the 1991 Gulf War, which it continues to rely on today.

“In a greater way than we have in the past, we are going to be trying to strategically focus our R&D investments into things that are going to matter,” DoD Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall said last year. “We want to ensure we’ve identified the technologies, whatever their source might be, toward things that are going to move us forward.”