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Rogers is urging Pentagon to develop new technologies to keep ahead of China

On Thursday, the House Armed Services committee held a hearing on Department of Defense (DoD) programs and initiatives to accelerate innovative technologies, solutions, and capabilities from the research and development enterprise to the warfighter. Rep. Rogers urged the DoD to do a better job of delivering new tools and weapons systems to America’s armed forces in order to get ahead of China.

Rogers is the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

“Today we continue our review of DoD efforts to outpace the threats we face from the Chinese Communist Party,” Chairman Rogers said in his opening remarks. “Specifically, we will examine why the DOD continues to struggle with rapidly developing, scaling, and delivering innovation to our warfighters.”

“In recent years, the Department created new offices and initiatives like AFWERX, RDER, RCCTO, DCO, OSC, and now Replicator, to get after this problem,” Rogers continued. “This alphabet soup of programs has had only minimal success. For years we’ve been hearing complaints from industry about the glacial pace of acquisitions. And from small innovators that lack the capital and support necessary to bridge the valley of death. But mostly we’re concerned about what we hear from our warfighters. They tell us how upset they are with the failure to timely deliver the capabilities they need to protect themselves and defeat our adversaries.”

“And when capabilities are finally delivered, they tell us they often don’t meet their needs,” Rogers stated. “This is immensely frustrating to us because this committee has spearheaded dozens of efforts over the last decade to reform the Department’s acquisition process; and make it easier for the DoD to partner with academia and the private sector to expedite the fielding of innovation.”

“It’s also frustrating because our time to solve this problem is running out,” Rogers warned. “Where we’ve had trouble, the PLA’s been successful. They’ve invested heavily in new capabilities that are critical to success on future battlefields. And they’ve figured out how to rapidly deploy them. We’re seeing them outpace us on hypersonic technology. They’re making advances in AI and quantum computing that we struggle to keep up with. And our own military leaders have described the PLA’s progress in space and in nuclear modernization as breathtaking. Make no mistake - these capabilities are being developed specifically to defeat our military and deny our ability to freely operate in the Pacific.”

“We cannot let that happen,” Rogers concluded. “We can’t let China or any adversary outpace us on innovation. Fortunately, the United States has something our adversaries do not – a robust innovation ecosystem. From our universities, to military science and technology labs, to startup companies; there is no shortage of innovative Americans with the ideas and know-how to keep us ahead of our adversaries. It’s time for us to take advantage of this. As we’ve seen in Ukraine, new technologies are emerging faster than tactics are changing. The side that’s faster at innovating, scaling, and deploying has the advantage on the battlefield. I hope to hear from our witnesses today how the Department will harness our country’s innovative spirit. But most importantly, I want to know what more Congress needs to do to help the Department finally fix this problem.”

Part of the problem has been the steady deindustrialization of the economy, which makes it increasingly difficult for the Pentagon to domestically source the parts and equipment that they need. Too many companies have moved their manufacturing operations offshore. That means those companies either can’t be utilized for defense purposes or the supply chains stretch into other continents – and the supply chains are vulnerable to interference by a peer or near peer adversary. In just one example, Fairbanks Morse Defense is the last U.S. producer of large diesel engines used in warships. At one time, six American companies built engines for Navy destroyers, frigates, amphibious, and support ships. No more.

Chinese companies increasingly beat their American counterparts to market with new commercial products like drones and sell them at a price at which U.S. manufacturers cannot compete at.

The Pentagon has been hoping innovations will enable it to stay a generation ahead of military rivals, but that now looks unlikely. China’s share of global manufacturing is now larger than that of the U.S., Japan and South Korea combined. This means that they have both superior production capacity and more corporations and minds devoted to the production of new products and getting them to the frontline warfighters rapidly.

China has a larger navy that the United States and more shipyards so they can get ahead in numbers and get new classes of ships deployed faster than the U.S. can. They also have more ballistic missile launchers than the United States and are seeking parity in the number of warheads. Hypersonics have become the new area of competition; where China and Russia are seeking to get weapons developed and deployed ahead of the U.S.

Mike Rogers has represented Alabama’s Third Congressional District for eleven terms.

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