SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, warning that the Pentagon's technological edge is eroding, announced an ambitious effort on Saturday to identify and develop weapons systems to enable continued US military dominance in the 21st century.
Hagel, in a speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum, said the new Defense Innovation Initiative would include an effort to develop and field new systems using technologies such as robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, big data and three-dimensional printing.
Noting the Defense Department did not dominate the technologies it hoped to exploit, Hagel said the Pentagon would turn to businesses and universities for ideas and help.
He said the Pentagon expected the push to produce systems that would offset its rivals' advantages, as atomic weapons did in the 1950s and precision strike and stealth have done today.
"We are entering an era where American dominance in key warfighting domains is eroding, and we must find new and creative ways to sustain, and in some areas expand, our advantages," Hagel said in a memo to Pentagon leaders announcing the initiative.
While the United States has been engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, powers such as Russia and China have invested heavily in military modernization, fielding advanced aircraft, submarines, and both longer-range and more accurate missiles, Hagel said.
Technologies and weapons that were once the exclusive province of advanced nations have become available to a broad range of militaries and non-state actors, from North Korea to Hezbollah, he added.