February 22, 2022. The Pentagon has identified its priority areas for the nation’s forthcoming National Defense Science and Technology strategy, which is aimed at maintaining America’s military technological edge. It will involve “the Defense Industrial Base; academia; Federally Funded Research and Development Centres (FFRDCs); University Affiliated Research Centres (UARCs); small businesses, new entrants, and start-ups; international partners; and even with competitors”. In other words – a Whole of – Nation approach, something our country saw for the space and atomic programs.
The document states “Successful competition requires imagining our military capability as an ever-evolving collective, not a static inventory of weapons in development or sustainment”.
This is a truly alien concept for us Indians who do not see our capabilities as “ever-evolving” because till recently we have done little to promote domestic platforms and we couldn’t evolve our weapons park, acquired via licensed production. But India’s MOD can take inspiration from the Pentagon’s example and reform our creaky and silo-ed structures, espouse a Science and Technology outlook and deploy lean and mean mechanisms to promote the development of indigenous futuristic platforms. While the political will is there, as evidenced in the provisions in the Budget on Defence R&D, allocations for domestic procurement and Make in India Orders, never mind that actual orders for private sector platforms are still pending – several AONs notwithstanding – vested interests inside and outside the system are preventing movement forward. These people need to be identified and ostracised for undermining national capabilities.
The Pentagon has identified 14 Critical Technology Areas “vital to maintaining the United States’ national security”, as follows:
- Quantum Science
- Future Generation Wireless Technology (Future)
- Advanced Materials
- Trusted AI and Autonomy
- Space Technology
- Renewable Energy Generation and Storage
- Advanced Computing and Software
- Human-Machine Interfaces
- Directed Energy
- Integrated Sensing and Cyber
- Bridge to the Future
Most of these areas are relevant to India’s National Security effort. To start with, MOD could issue a similar statement of resolve and accompany it with an effective administrative machinery to undertake these critical tasks.