Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems Hearing Report
On February 23, 2021, the Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems conducted a hearing regarding the opportunities and vision for science and technology enterprises within the Defense Industrial Base (DIB). The committee received testimonies from The Honorable Christine Fox, Former Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense and Acting Assistant Director for Policy and Analysis at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory; Dr. Victoria Coleman, Former DARPA Director, and Senior Advisor to the Director, CITRUS, UC Berkley; and, Mr. Klon Kitchen, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Chairman Langevin and Ranking Member Stefanik stressed the necessity of this hearing has never been more salient as they look to discuss in greater detail the search for talent within innovative fields—specifically, the opportunities for innovation within the Department of Defense (DoD) to protect against future conflicts that will surround software and data from adversarial governments.
In her opening testimony, Secretary Fox described how her work at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory exposed her to many innovative new technologies. She said the recent trend toward innovative weapons and data systems could be described as a “technology explosion” and represents a policy framework to design future defense forces. Similarly, Dr. Coleman stressed the importance of supporting and extending these efforts as part of a necessary and proper reaction to the rise of asymmetrical military and technological development on behalf of our adversaries. To accomplish this goal, he said, we must evolve our DIB and relevant supply chains to emphasize the innovations that will provide secure jobs and limit predatory policies—protecting our supply chains from the actions of our adversaries.
In his testimony, Mr. Kitchen stressed that a developing relationship between the private sector and the DIB is of the utmost importance if we are to properly surpass and excel in the fields of applied sciences and technological development. This point is supported by the recent National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Vital Signs report, which graded the DIB with a passing grade of “C” and a failing grade regarding information security.
This concern raises the fundamental question of how we should support and defend innovation and development within the DIB and how we can protect our invaluable supply lines and software systems. Dr. Coleman argues the importance of practices and evaluations, such as product management, which reviews and analyzes software and technologies to determine the importance of innovations to the DIB. Moreover, it allows the private sector and relevant agencies to collaborate effectively to evaluate and push for modernization, helping advance the necessity for the best businesses and companies to receive contracts. This cohesive approach allows cooperation with the private sector and relevant government actors to promote and support the proliferation of new technologies and software frameworks necessary to repair the systemic holes in the supply chains and within the DIB.
These issues highlight the continuing problem of the proverbial Valley of Death impacting the fielding of new technologies within the DIB. The threats from adversarial supply chains and the lackluster software and data protection regarding private actors and government alike which have provided for the stigmatizing errors observed within the DIB. The witnesses reaffirm that we must seek to re-invest and provide further support within academia and to domestic students to encourage further STEM and related technological studies. They concluded, this is necessary to provide for innovative cures to the stigmatizing issues surrounding our nation’s invaluable supply chains and to secure our superior position in innovation and technology.