The Department of Defense (DoD) is primarily recognized for organizing and supporting the fighting capabilities of our service men and women, and ensuring our nation maintains strong training standards should our defense require wartime operations. Beyond this primary function, leaders at DoD have assertively pursued research and technology trajectories that make our solemn duty of defense more easily sustained. Enhancing our military capabilities and achieving new efficiencies by partnering with talent-rich American universities is producing important and positive impacts on our defense capability.
Promoting continued collaboration between DoD and talented academic leaders is something congress, federal agencies and the administration should support in sustained fashion.
DoD's most primary need in regard to these university collaborations is accelerating success in innovation. The process is twofold: discovery and delivery.
Firstly, the government identifies national priorities and then engages with private sector stakeholders and entrepreneurs to begin work. These collaborative projects are best incubated within our universities which possess the infrastructure, brain power, and experience to drive these projects forward. Collaborations begin with faculty, students, researchers and other key players who craft value propositions for the government. Engineering plans and prototypes are competed by these teams to make certain customer needs are addressed. The practical applications are determined once it can be demonstrated these products and developments can perform in their relevant environment.
Secondly, innovation is delivered through a dual-track process which addresses mission completion. The most straight-forward assessment of how this process begins and ends can be described by the effectiveness of the outcome. For example, can venture capitalist funders collaborate with DoD program sponsors to discern shifts in technologies and other pathway developments, which later result in translating ideas into tangible enabling capabilities our government is then able to utilize?
Congress, veteran service organizations, DoD leadership and Administration officials should unite in continuous support for strong funding levels financing these co-branded and DoD occupied technology projects. These projects are paramount to helping our nation solve diverse and complex problems that impact our people, public safety, aging infrastructure, and meet national security objectives.
Current projects being considered by congress for funding in legislation are voluminous, but to name a few: electric and connected vehicles with enhanced security capabilities to detect threats, increased efficiencies in sensor technologies which expedite security screening, and autonomous drone delivery to improve logistic flow are all projects that our academic leaders are able to help DoD develop to completion. There are a few interesting examples of these important projects worth noting.
Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business received a $2.4 million dollar grant award to provide strategic recommendations and enhance supply chain management customs, designed to improve patient care. This work is purposed to introduce cloud-based supply chain technology solutions and help streamline purchasing accuracy for acquiring medical products. This work will aide to improve field requirements for our military, as well to ease bureaucratic burdens on commanders in the field.
Healthcare is not the only focus of these innovation collaborations. At the University of South Florida, advanced communications projects are taking place. Graduate and doctoral students are producing research aimed at improving surveillance technology for our troops and developing drone capabilities to improve logistic delivery and global security. Drone technology is another focal point as our military looks to the future. Artificial intelligence can alleviate labor, time, and resources on our warfighter while improving logistical output and strengthening our security posture.
These projects abound at our colleges and the funding is important.
Another notable example is the full spectrum approach at the University of California of San Diego. UC San Diego provides in-depth entrepreneurial support to veterans and military families in their region of DoD commands, fosters robust connections between the cadre of entrepreneurs and the nation’s dispersed and disparate innovation interests, and aligns both with the emerging science and technology discoveries and applications from among their faculty and students.
The UC San Diego example is consistent with the goals and intentions of congress, as they are vested in strengthening the helpful communications between legislators, scientists, and entrepreneurs within the complex scope of national missions. One particular study focused on cognitive behavioral therapy and eating habits among veterans.
These DoD collaborations with our academic institutions are worthy and important. Congress should accelerate funding to expedite the discoveries these projects continue to produce, as we grow and improve our national security capabilities to protect our nation from evolving global threats.
Christopher Neiweem is an Iraq War veteran, chief communications officer for Next Veterans, has testified in front of Congress as an expert witness on several defense topics, and is a national news commentator.
Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, firstname.lastname@example.org.