Technological Innovations: The ACTD Program. (Military Transformation)

Article excerpt

In the 1950s and 1960s, many business firms assumed that they had optimized production. Consequently they removed production from the competition equation. In the two ensuing decades foreign competitors outproduced them. Manufacturing faced a hard choice: change or die.

Now it is the turn of the defense sector, which followed the same approach for a long time. But the competition moved ahead, ranging from aggressor states to terrorists who use technologies that previous enemies never had, thus posing new challenges. The attacks on September 11 magnified the need for rapid change. Innovation within the Armed Forces is coming from the advanced concept technology demonstration (ACTD) program, but such developments alone cannot ensure automatic preeminence or defeat terrorism. Technology as well as advanced concepts, tactics, techniques, and procedures must be applied to competitive areas defined in the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Enabling Preeminence

Military transformation is a major DOD focus. But what does it mean? It is about ensuring preeminence in competition to deter and defeat all enemies. Just as manufacturing bounced back in the 1980s and 1990s, the Federal government, defense industrial base, and nontraditional suppliers must respond decisively and continually to a changing marketplace. The response must maintain predominance in areas where the homeland and the security of allies are being challenged. It must be quick and continuous because of "disproportionate and discontinuous changes in the security environment," as emphasized by the Quadrennial Defense Review in 2001.

In addition, that report listed six transformational areas in which defense must ensure preeminence:

* protecting bases of operations and defeating nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons and their means of delivery

* projecting and sustaining U.S. forces in anti-access or area denial environments

* denying enemies sanctuary by persistent surveillance and rapid precision strike

* leveraging information technology and concepts to develop a joint command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance ([C.sup.4]ISR) architecture

* assuring information systems that face attack and conducting information operations

* enhancing the capability and survivability of space systems.

How transformation is achieved is just as important as the key areas. It requires what the Secretary of Defense calls new approaches--the essence of ACTD procedure. This program identifies needs and ways to meet them. A warfighter-developed concept of operations, underpinned by innovative technology and demonstrated by the warfighter for the warfighter, defines success or failure.

Since 1994 this program has rapidly and continually fielded technologies. In its first thirty-six months it resulted in the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle that monitored the accords in Bosnia. By 1999 some 20 percent of ACTD products were supporting Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, By 2001 thirty products were deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan as well as Operation Noble Eagle at home.

The program enables military transformation in ways not commonly recognized. To date, 97 demonstrations have been initiated. Significant improvements in joint capabilities have occurred when innovative technology was inserted at little cost. Across the joint community, ACTDs are creating paradigm shifts that are more than linear extrapolations of the present day. Moreover, they are focused on the areas where the United States must ensure preeminence.

Protecting Bases and Defeating WMD

Geography once secured our most important base: the homeland. But today the Nation is not only vulnerable to attack from threats such as cruise and ballistic missiles, but to a terrorist who wears explosive-filled tennis shoes and flies into the country from abroad. …