The Pentagon’s fiscal 2024 funding request for the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER) nearly doubled compared to its request for 2023. That funding will allow the department to conduct multiple technology “sprints” next year, according to Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu.
The RDER effort is aimed at identifying and putting prototypes through their paces so that promising technologies can be more rapidly fielded to combatant commanders to address joint warfighting requirements. The Pentagon requested $359 million for the program in fiscal 2023. For fiscal 2024, it is asking for $687 million.
“It’s doubled because we’re doing two sprints,” Shyu said Wednesday at the annual McAleese and Associates Defense Programs Conference. “Typically looking at … around $300 million to $350 million per sprint.”
Some senior leaders wanted even more money to go toward RDER, according to Shyu.
“Initially, they came in and gave me a budget of $1.2 billion. I said, ‘We’ll, that’s a bit much, OK.’ I’m trying to temper down their appetite a little bit,” Shyu said, saying the $687 million would be “a little bit more digestible.”
The RDER funding requested for 2024 would go toward “experimentation and evaluation of advanced technologies to deliver ready capabilities that advance the Joint Warfighting Concept,” according to DOD budget documents.
During the DOD budget rollout earlier this week, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks highlighted RDER, saying it would be “hastening the pathway from joint concept to experimentation to fielding systems.”
The department hosted a major industry day related to the program last year, and it has been deluged with white papers.
“We work very closely with the Joint Staff to understand what are the critical requirements, critical capabilities they’re looking for in a highly contested war. And then what we end up doing was taking those capabilities they desired, working with the services to figure out, are there prototypes that they know of that industry is working on as well as themselves that could close these capabilities in terms of providing something in the relatively near term,” Shyu said.
Focus areas include resilient communication, joint command and control, and contested logistics.
“As a part of the RDER activity, what we want to do is be able to say, out of the prototypes we’ve tested, if it’s effective, if the Joint Staff, the [combatant commands], the services say, ‘This performed great, let’s get into rapid fielding’ — OK. And [the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment] has already defined multiple different pathways that can help pull products through much quicker,” Shyu said.