The Pentagon wants at least $377 million over five years for a new rapid experimentation fund


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is seeking $377 million over five years to fund high-level rapid experimentation projects, including initial efforts to close capability gaps in support of the Joint Combat Concept and improve operations joint operations in all areas of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, budget details were released on Tuesday’s show.

The defense-wide request includes $70 million for the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve in fiscal year 2023, of which $48.5 million would support JWC experiments in the areas of command and control. control, information advantage, contested logistics and advanced fires.

“This will provide funding for certain individual capability experiments and series of experiments that support capabilities to enable JWC support concepts, also known as ‘Functional Battles,'” according to the budget documents.

Heidi Shyu, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, touted the RDER as a mechanism to fill critical capability gaps within the Department of Defense, though she gave little details on the projects that the RDER will fund. Last year, his team received more than 200 proposals from the military services and selected 32 to execute as part of its initial sprint.

Speaking at a National Defense Industrial Association webinar on April 20, Shyu said the department is working to identify its second list of RDER projects, noting that the process is open to industry as well as federally funded research and development centers.

Shyu’s office released its detailed budget request for defense-wide research and development programs on April 26, offering more insight into early RDER efforts. Along with defense-wide demand, RDER projects are integrated into service funding plans. It’s not immediately clear how much funding each service received through RDER, but it’s likely the total number is significantly higher than what’s stated in the defense-wide request.

The documents do not say how many JWC experiments will take place in fiscal year 2023. The Air Force budget includes $64 million for four RDER projects related to the JWC experiment sprint. Three of the projects will develop sensing and electromagnetic spectrum prototypes, commercial space integration software and advanced satellite communication terminals. The fourth effort is ranked.

Of the remaining funding request, $2.5 million would fund one or more experimentation sprints in INDOPACOM. According to Army budget documents, the funding is tied to an effort that the proposed service for RDER called Olympus, which would develop capabilities for joint operations of all domains, including advanced detection, target identification and command and control. The service’s budget request includes $86 million for the Olympus project.

“The Olympus Wallet will initiate prototyping, integration and risk reduction activities to facilitate integrated and interoperable capabilities that take advantage of the layers [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and autonomy with advanced communication and architectures to enable AI-infused layered analytics and effects,” the Army documents state.

The request also includes $10 million to establish an RDER coordination and implementation unit. The cell will include planners embedded within combatant commands to report on results and lessons learned and work with military services to translate capabilities into registration programs.

An additional $9 million would provide end-to-end intelligence and analytics support to ensure that RDER capabilities explored during experimentation sprints are informed by near-peer threats and are aligned with the joint combat concept. .

Beyond FY2023, the RDER’s proposed funding profile for Defense Overall shows a slow but steady increase, reaching $71 million in FY2024, $75 million in in fiscal 2025, $79 million in fiscal 2026, and $82 million in fiscal 2027.

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s Space and Emerging Technologies Journalist. She previously covered the US Air Force and US Space Force for Inside Defense.

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