On April 1, 2014, Aerospace Caucus co-chairs, Senators Patty Murray and Saxby Chambliss, hosted an event on the importance of defense research and development (R&D) on innovation. The event featured Dr. Arati Prabhakar the Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), who spoke to the innovations that have entered the commercial marketplace because of defense R&D investments.
|Far left: Sen. Murray (D-WA) discusses ATM technology with Rockwell Collins representative. Left: Sen. Chambliss (R-GA) shakes hands with UTC representative in front of a display model ejection seat.|
The caucus event also featured industry R&D partners who had some of their innovative technologies on display. These displays included technologies such as satellite air traffic management, ejection seats and GPS equipment from aerospace and defense manufactures ATK, Harris Corp., Honeywell, Rockwell Collins and UTC.
AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey
“The tangible benefits we’ve obtained from healthy federal investment in R&D programs yield strong economic growth and significant technological advances,” said AIA’s President and CEO, Marion C. Blakey, as she opened the event. “Many of these technology innovations improve our everyday life through advances in cell phone and automobile capabilities, life saving medical science equipment and consumer electronics.”
The spinoffs made possible through defense related R&D are also highlighted in AIA’s latest report, Defense Research and Development: From the Warfighter to the American Consumer, Redefining Everyday Lives Through Innovation.
“We can’t afford to sacrifice these investments, and we can’t afford to lose our global leadership in innovation,” said Senator Murray. “If we were a business the last place we would look to cut back is where our future economic growth will be coming from, which is exactly what R&D represents.”
Senator Murray’s recognition of the need for further investment in R&D spending was followed by calling for more budgetary certainty in federal spending to ensure national security capabilities, strengthen the economy, and “close the innovation deficit.”
In the aerospace and defense marketplace it is innovation through R&D that has allowed the United States to stay ahead of its global competition and enabled it to respond to security threats around the world.
“The threats [we face as a nation] demand unconventional solutions,” said Senator Chambliss acknowledging America’s need to promote innovative ideas across borders, disciplines, institutions and ideologies. “We have to think, prepare, research, and build not just for the world we are in, but for the world that we will be in tomorrow and beyond.”
Senator Chambliss went on to discuss the need to provide the Defense Department with a more streamlined acquisition process that provides for better partnerships between government and industry; citing DARPA as an agency who has lead the way in delivering innovative technologies through strong industry partnerships. These partnerships have helped lead the way for the future.
DARPA Director, Dr. Arati Prabhakar
“Through more than five decades of tumultuous geopolitical and technological change, [DARPA] delivered outsized impact by focusing on our mission of breakthrough technologies for national security,” said DARPA’s Director, Dr. Prabhakar, speaking to the imaginative processes that have enabled the agency to advance new technologies for defense applications.
How the agency is approaching today’s national security problems also requires a rethink according to Dr. Prabhakar. The agency is looking to achieve far greater capabilities at lower cost by rethinking the next generation of defense systems, incorporating information at scale, looking to biology for technological and human understanding, and keeping an eye on the next horizon in defense technologies.