Magnuson talks defense tech, military future with Federal News Radio

Stew Magnuson Stew Magnuson, National Defense Magazine editor in chief

ARLINGTON, VA – The U.S. military is looking at a host of new cutting-edge technologies that it hopes will give it an edge on the battlefields of tomorrow. The question is whether the Pentagon’s notoriously slow acquisition system will stand in its way, said Stew Magnuson, editor in chief of National Defense Magazine, during an April 5 interview with Federal News Radio.

Hypersonics and artificial intelligence are just two examples of technologies that have been around many years, Magnuson told host Derrick Dortch of the “Fed Access” show on Federal News Radio 1500 AM, a sister station to WTOP radio of Washington.

“Hypersonics is not a new concept,” Magnuson said, but “the military sees hypersonic technology as a breakthrough for missiles and aircraft.” Hypersonic is considered anything faster than Mach 5.

Artificial intelligence is the same, a technology that has been around for years but is gaining momentum now as robots gain autonomy, he said. The hurdle there, Magnuson said, is trust, “trust to let the machines and robots do the work” for warfighters.

U.S. adversaries “have watched what we’ve done and look to see where we are vulnerable,” Magnuson said. Space, for instance, once off limits “now is considered a warfighting domain,” he said. “The Pentagon now sees battles on Earth will extend into space.”

Unfortunately, U.S. adversaries, such as China and Russia, also see these advances. Russia, Magnuson said, claims to have a hypersonic weapon that can reach speeds of Mach 10. Both China and Russia have watched the U.S. military since the Iraq War in the 1990s and are looking to see where the United States is vulnerable in terms of communications systems, satellites and the like.

“There is a phrase: the military with the best software will win the next war,” Magnuson said.

Magnuson’s interview on Federal News Radio can be heard here.

In September 2017, Magnuson became editor in chief of National Defense Magazine, the official publication of the National Defense Industrial Association. He joined the staff in 2005 and was named managing editor a year later. Before that, he was a Washington-based reporter for Education Daily, Space News and Kyodo News. He spent several years reporting in Asia, working for newspapers such as the Asahi Evening News in Tokyo and The Cambodia Daily in Phnom Penh. He contributed to Reuters, the Christian Science Monitor and South China Morning Post. In his spare time, he writes nonfiction books focusing on the history of the American West. He is the author of “The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder: And Other True Stories from the Nebraska-Pine Ridge Border Towns,” which was named the Nebraska’s 2009 nonfiction book of the year and recently made a list of the state’s most important literary works.

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