The Pentagon this week began a new series of technology demonstrations and “tactical scenario” exercises to support the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER) initiative, the department announced Wednesday.
As part of this effort, a tech “showcase” at Camp Atterbury, Indiana — named Technology Readiness Experimentation 2023 (TREX23-1) — will run May 16-24 and be hosted in partnership with the Indiana National Guard.
The event will involve a “full-scale exercise” and a display of industry-built prototypes, according to a Department of Defense release.
Signal devices, cyber protection, counterintelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities will be assessed during a simulated disaster scenario focused on resilient communications.
The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit will also be at the camp conducting a training exercise.
“The 26th MEU contribution to TREX23-1 enables participating units to strengthen [command, control, communications computers, cyber and intelligence] capabilities. From this scenario, TREX23-1 will provide a body of evidence for future development and transition of the assessed technologies,” per the release.
The Pentagon’s Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER) effort, which TREX is intended to support, 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 DOD requested $359 million for the program in fiscal 2023. For fiscal 2024, it is asking for $687 million.
The plan is to run multiple technology “sprints” each year with the ultimate goal of quickly filling capability gaps identified by the Joint Staff and combatant commanders.
Focus areas include resilient communication, joint command and control, contested logistics and “asymmetric capabilities,” according to Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu.
Officials have received hundreds of white papers from industry as companies seek to get in on the RDER action.
More than 30 organizations from government and industry are lined up to attend TREX23-1, according to the Pentagon.
“TREX is a new and enduring campaign of experimentation developed to support the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER) initiative,” Thomas Browning, deputy chief technology officer for mission capabilities in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said in a statement.
“A key attribute of RDER is the focus on a campaign of experimentation that enables the collection of a body of evidence to accelerate technology transition to the field,” he added. “TREX is integral to the success of this enduring campaign of experiments.”
Shyu has told DefenseScoop that the timelines for fielding RDER-related capabilities will be determined on a “case-by-case” basis.
“I have worked very closely with my counterpart, [Undersecretary] Dr. Bill LaPlante on the acquisition and sustainment side, so the prototypes that’s demonstrated as part of the RDER activity, if it proves out the utility … then what we will do is figure out multiple pathways to be able to go to rapid transition [and] get it into the hands of warfighters as quickly as possible,” Shyu said in April during a panel at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference.