College, Naval Postgraduate School
and U.S. Naval Academy. “We came
out with a list of five technologies we
think are game-changing. Other people
might have a different list. Our objective was not to say this is the authoritative list on game-changing technologies, but rather these are some key
areas,” Riley recalls.
Those five key areas are: additive manufacturing, more commonly
referred to as 3-D printing; autonomous systems; directed energy; cyber
capabilities; and human performance
modification, which includes the use of
drugs, techniques, machines or genes
to enhance or degrade human performance. Nex Tech examined how U.S.
forces and potential adversaries might
use those technologies in 2025 or 2030.
A report on NexTech states that
additive manufacturing could significantly alter logistics by allowing
deployed units to print specific parts
from available materials. It also could
allow new approaches to tactical adaptation of equipment, as already seen in
Afghanistan, where the rapid equipping force has deployed mobile labs
to make improvements to everything
from flashlights to power attachments
for ground-penetrating radar.
In the years to come, the report
points out, the United States will not be
the only beneficiary of unmanned vehicles and may well be targeted by them.
Autonomous systems are, therefore,
likely to be an area of intense competition in the near term, meaning that the
speed of deployment will be crucial for
gaining or maintaining the advantage.
While directed-energy weapons may
be limited by bad weather and other
harsh conditions, they provide an
opportunity to both generate game-changing advantages and improve
defenses against the disruptive technologies of adversaries, the report concludes.
In the cyber realm, the Internet of
things—connectivity between countless
small electronic devices that allows the
creation of autonomous networks shar-
ing information on users’ behalf—could
potentially create disruptive alterations
to current concepts of persistent intel-
ligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
and enable large-scale management of
autonomous systems. Human perfor-
mance modification could be used to
enhance intelligence or night vision.
Other biological and genetic technologies provide the opportunity for intelligence gathering based on genetic profiles; conducting tag, track and locate
missions using bio-markers; or even
assassinating high-value targets through
custom-designed viruses. While these
technologies may not yet be available,
they are no longer in the realm of science fiction, the report states.
For the coming months or years,
Wyatt’s priorities include autonomous systems. “We’re trying to see
how, as the services draw down, we
can provide certain capabilities that
require less manpower. If I can reduce
the number of boots on the ground, I
reduce a lot of things in terms of cost
of operations,” Wyatt explains.
Other priorities include space—for
—Earl Wyatt, deputy assistant secretary of defense, emerging capabilities and prototyping
precision, navigation and timing capa-
bilities as well as communication and
battlespace awareness. “We want to
make sure that the department can
continue to operate in those domains.
If an adversary tries to take it away
from us, we want to provide a certain
degree of resilience,” Wyatt adds.
Spectrum management and counter-
ing weapons of mass destruction also
are high on the list. The rapid fielding
office is examining the use of chemical
weapons in Syria and the implications
for the future warfighter. “That’s one
that occupies a lot of my time,” Riley
states. “If you ask me for a good con-
clusion, I don’t have any yet, but I can
tell you that it’s a work in progress.”
The NexTech project indicated that
a congruence of events must come
together to make a given technology
a game-changer, and it sometimes can
take years for a system—such as an
unmanned aerial vehicle—to really
make a difference. Furthermore, no
system will remain disruptive forever.
“A game-changing technology is really
game-changing for a finite period of
time. Ultimately, your opponent will
figure out how to counter that thing or
develop the same kind of capability. It
gives you an advantage, but only for a
short period of time,” Riley maintains.
“As we find ourselves in a more budget-constrained environment,
you’ll see the department—and our office in particular—moving toward
doing developmental prototypes before we make the commitment.”
contact: George I. Seffers,
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Nex Tech Report: www.cnas.org/
Rapid Fielding Office:
The Accelerated Nuclear DNA Equipment
system processes five DNA samples
in about 90 minutes. The system was
developed with help from the rapid
fielding office within the Pentagon.