Defense official: US must invest more in innovation to compete with China




Artificial Intelligence

Defense official: US must invest more in innovation to compete with China

Andrew Eversden

1 day ago

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The Forever GI Bill law allotted a fifth year of educational benefits for eligible students pursuing STEM degrees in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

WASHINGTON — The slowing of federal spending on research and development means the U.S. needs to capture innovation from the commercial market, a top Defense Department innovation official said Tuesday.

The U.S. is attempting to outpace China in developing mature technologies that will define future fights, such as artificial intelligence, cyber capabilities and 5G networks, but federal investment is losing pace in the midst of the competition, said Michael Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit, the DoD arm tasked with connecting with nontraditional vendors.




“Federal R&D is declining as a percentage of the economy, [and] it’s flattening out in dollar terms,” he said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s National Security Artificial Intelligence Conference. “Meanwhile, the commercial sector has moved ahead quite dramatically.”

To keep pace, the U.S. needs to be “bolstering investment in basic R&D, that’s both on the federal level ... but also on the private sector side,” Brown said.

DIU’s mission to attract nontraditional contractors is key to future military superiority, Brown said, pointing to statistics that show the top U.S. technology companies outspend the top five defense prime contractors on R&D by about $64 billion a year.

“So if we want access to the leading technology for our military, we’ve got to be accessing the commercial world, and we’ve got to learn to be a fast follower,” he said.




But there’s still an important need for federal investment, Brown noted.

“I think one of the advantages of federally funded R&D is you get a longer-term time horizon and some willingness to take risk,” Brown said.

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