DoD’s Third Offset spending is evolving, study says

The Defense Department is putting its money where its mouth is in terms of the Pentagon’s initiative to revolutionize technology in the military.

DoD maneuvered its Third Offset investments differently in 2015 compared to previous years, stated a new report by Govini.

Among the changes were a drop in integration between new capabilities and existing weapons systems and a ramp up of investments in hypersonic technologies.

DoD introduced the third offset strategy to keep the U.S. technologically superior to its rivals. The strategy is investing in specific research areas like man-machine teaming, autonomous learning systems, semi-autonomous weapons systems and assisted human operations.

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DoD expects to invest $18 billion in the Offset Strategy over the next five years.

Though the Third Offset is still in its nascent stages, the Govini report sheds light on where DoD is looking to keep its technological advantages.

Hypersonic technologies saw a 98 percent growth compared to the average investments of the last four years.

“There are opportunities to make small aircraft and projectiles go faster,” Matt Hummer, director of analytics for Govini told Federal News Radio. “Investing in aerodynamics and other engines will help that happen. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are well positioned for hyperglide and things like that.”

While hypersonics saw growth, more traditional weapons segments related to Third Offset capabilities were on the decline. Target Tracking accounts for 44 percent of overall spending as a procurement area and is the “linchpin for advancing Third Offset weapons capabilities,” the report stated.

Yet, target tracking, which is the foundation for integrating new capabilities with existing weapons systems, lost 18 percent of its funding in 2015.

The decline “is a sign of the maturity of a lot of the systems in place, whether it be on ships, aircraft or even mortar, land-based Army type technology and systems,” Hummer said. “That decline, to us, signals a potential for reinvestment in a lot of those systems.”

Hummer said the money once used in the Third Offset budget can be reinvested into other areas. Later on, when the other areas are more mature, they can be added on to existing weapons systems.

Other areas receiving more attention from DoD are directed energy and conventional long range missiles.

Directed energy has been deeply pursued by the Navy as can be seen in the rail gun it now has on display.

Directed energy grew by 23 percent in 2015, mostly from work related to the maturation of solid state laser technology.

Conventional long range missiles saw a 14 percent increase from previous years. That growth can be attributed to the production of the JASSM-Extended Range missile.

Outside of the focus on investments, DoD is trying to figure out how to make sure the Third Offset policy survives into the next presidential administration.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said last month he is setting up the strategy for the next president.

“I’m going to be central to the transition, so I’m going to be able to personally talk with the transition team and explain to them what we have pursued and why we pursued it and let them make their own decisions,” Work said.

Work signed a memo earlier this month tasking the Defense Business Board to share its private sector knowledge of management transitions and use them to assess the presidential transition of power.

The memo asks for a series of topic papers germane to the Pentagon’s current and incoming senior executives on how to manage a large-scale enterprise through transition.