Departing Air, Space Force lead on Pentagon technology • The Register

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The first outgoing chief architect of the US Air and Space Force has urged the Pentagon to stop wasting time building everything itself and use commercial kit if available and suitable to quickly upgrade its capabilities technologies.

“If the Department of Defense is to compete on today’s global stage and maintain its technological edge, it must ride the wave of business innovation,” said Preston Dunlap. The register Monday. “If not, he risks drowning under his own weight.”

After signing on for a two-year stint leading R&D and technology acquisition programs for the US Air and Space Force, Dunlap resigned from his CAO position this week, three years and four months after his entry into office. In an open letter share on LinkedIn, he reviews his achievements and offers advice to his colleagues.

He asked them to fight for structural change in how the Department of Defense spends its technology budget. As chief architect, Dunlap said he helped manage more than $70 billion in US Air and Space Force spending during his time. Instead of trying to build everything it can from scratch, the DoD should use more off-the-shelf components from commercial vendors, where possible, to integrate new functionality faster, a- he writes. The same goes for commercial services, provided they are thoroughly audited for security and privacy issues.

Dunlap listed a number of projects he was proud of, including achieving secure communication of classified information between devices via commercial satellites, shooting down a cruise missile from the ground using AI and 5G, and reducing kill chain times in a “critical defense mission” from 16 minutes to 16 seconds. That said, it faced an uphill battle fraught with “widespread technological issues” and “a number of institutional issues,” he wrote.

“I naively thought that resurrecting the DoD with innovation and speed, solving intractable decades-old problems, and getting the combat technology they needed and loved would be enough. However…structural change is needed… To borrow an analogy from the personal computer world, DoD suffers from an acquisition “blue screen of death” that requires more of a repair of the proverbial DoD hard drive, not just a reboot,” he said. for follow-up.

In short, the Pentagon should stop always “reinventing the wheel”, or risk falling behind in technological innovation.

Modernizing the DoD to better support advanced capabilities like 5G and machine learning will not be enough to make the United States more competitive. The DoD’s internal culture also needs to change, though he acknowledged it’s a daunting job, given the glacial pace of government.

Of the “structural changes I’ve made over the past three years” he listed, “these are only beginning to turn the script around. There’s still a long way to go if the DoD is to regain its technological edge. which is shrinking.”

He pleaded with service members to stop the bureaucratic infighting and focus more on delivering products to defend the country. “We are behind on the commercial basis in key areas, so we need to catch up,” he said. added at Bloomberg. Catching up will be difficult, however, if staff continue to “compete with each other, while [they] should compete with China.”

The Ministry of Defense suffers from a series of technological problems, in addition to procurement. Previously published open letters and resignations revealed that employees had to struggle with old, slow computers that would crash if they tried to use Microsoft Excel or send an email. Cell phone use is also restricted.

“Ironically, as I write this, I received a notification that the phone lines are down at the Pentagon IT Help Desk. Phone lines down? It’s 2022, folks,” wrote Dunlap on LinkedIn. The department desperately needs to embrace the “Silicon Valley mentality and capability” to overcome its technology shortcomings, he said. More time and effort should be spent developing new products and hiring top talent at a faster pace.

See the letter above for his opinions in full. ®

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