WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) presided as Ranking Member of a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities hearing on the importance of technology transfer and ways to move technologies and systems more rapidly into the hands of operational forces.
In his opening statement, Senator Heinrich highlighted New Mexico as a perfect example of a research and development hub, and noted that many individuals and companies in the state often perform cutting-edge research but can’t seem to get traction while fighting their way through the Pentagon’s arcane and bureaucratic procurement and funding processes.
“The state of New Mexico, alone, is proud to host two national security laboratories, Air Force Research Laboratory, White Sands Missile Range, and a number of high tech small businesses, each employing some of the best and brightest minds in the country,” Heinrich said. “Yet, one of our nation’s biggest challenges remains in determining how we can best connect those innovators to the real current and future challenges facing the military, and how to move the best new technologies into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and effectively as possible.”
During the hearing, Senator Heinrich pressed the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin for ways to accelerate technology transition and expressed the need to prioritize investments in developing prototypes, modernize testing infrastructure, and cut back on red tape and bureaucracy that slow down innovation.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Heinrich has worked to accelerate the development of new technologies by investing in the personnel and facilities at New Mexico’s defense laboratories, test ranges, and industry. Senator Heinrich has authorized faster hiring authorities, invested in new facilities, and has established a prototyping and demonstration program for transitioning Directed Energy Weapons Systems.
The archived webcast of the hearing is available here.
Below is Senator Heinrich’s opening statement as prepared for delivery:
Let me begin by thanking Senator Ernst for holding this important hearing on technology transfer and the ways we can move technologies and systems more rapidly into the hands of operational forces.
It has been almost two full months since you were confirmed for this job, so you may not have fixed everything yet .
But I do hope that today's hearing will help us better understand the barriers to the smooth transition of next generation technologies, whether they are funding, legal, regulatory, cultural, or otherwise.
We know that we are in a race to build future technologies and systems that our military will need to execute its missions against peer threats and emerging threats.
We also know that the United States is still home to the world's most innovative companies, small businesses, research universities, and government laboratories.
The state of New Mexico, alone, is proud to host two national security laboratories, Air Force Research Laboratory, White Sands Missile Range, and a number of high tech small businesses, each employing some of the best and brightest minds in the country.
Yet, one of our nation's biggest challenges remains in determining how we can best connect those innovators to the real current and future challenges facing the military, and how to move the best new technologies into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and effectively as possible.
All of the members of this committee have heard frustrating stories of companies with great ideas, or universities and government labs performing cutting-edge research, that can't seem to get traction and fight their way through the Pentagon's arcane and bureaucratic procurement and funding processes - only to get stuck in what is referred to as the "Valley of Death".
This committee has taken a number of steps to help transition technologies, including strengthening science and technology prototyping efforts, emphasizing weapons of the future like directed energy, supporting the Small Business Innovation Research program, and trying to cut back on the red tape and bureaucracy that slows down government processes. But I think we can do more.
Tackling the issues that prevent the transition of technologies is a key emphasis of your work, Dr. Griffin, and you have an excellent opportunity to do so as our nation's Undersecretary for Research and Engineering.
Dr. Griffin, I hope we can hear today your early assessment of the biggest challenges to effectively transition technology, and learn what steps you are beginning to take to address them.
I also look forward to hearing what hurdles you are encountering in terms of setting up your organization and staffing in the Pentagon, and de-conflicting authorities with the services and other parts of the Pentagon.
Finally, I hope to learn what steps this committee and other committees in Congress can take to help in your efforts.
Our military's technological edge may not depend solely on your success, but your success can greatly alter the ability of our military to stay ahead of our adversaries.
I look forward to your testimony and to hearing how we can help you do so.