Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks is set to brief senior officials in the United Kingdom this week on the ambitious effort she recently launched to enable the U.S. military to field thousands of low-cost autonomous systems across multiple domains in less than two years, as the Pentagon aims to offset China’s military buildup.
This meeting in the U.K. marks the first official international engagement Hicks and her team will hold on the Replicator initiative, Pentagon Spokesperson Eric Pahon told DefenseScoop on Monday.
“She is going to talk with U.K. counterparts about their successes with similar innovation initiatives, and brief our initiative. This is an example of the close information sharing and collaboration we share with partners and allies,” Pahon said.
Questions have continued to emerge regarding what the anticipated cost and full implementation of Replicator will eventually look like, since Hicks first unveiled the pursuit in late August.
Last week, she announced that Defense Department leadership is about to select which specific existing programs and systems will be fast-tracked via this initiative. However, the winners will likely not be publicized immediately. The deputy and her team have repeatedly emphasized that they are not inclined to reveal many details broadly about Replicator, particularly early on — so as not to inform military adversaries like China about its elements.
On Monday, both Pahon and Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder were not forthcoming in response to DefenseScoop’s questions about whether Hicks will push to bring international partners such as the U.K. into this initiative in the near term.
“We’ll obviously have a readout coming out of her visit. But, you know, the United States — when it comes to the kinds of capabilities that we employ — works very closely with partners and allies. So, as it pertains to Replicator, we’ll have more to provide on that in the future,” Ryder told DefenseScoop during a meeting with reporters.
Among other activities during her trip abroad this week, Hicks will participate in the biannual U.S.-UK defense dialogue, and also tour infrastructure improvements and observe U.S. capability demonstrations at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. Her visit also immediately follows the joint release of new guidelines by American and British authorities on Sunday, which aim to inform the secure development and deployment of artificial intelligence assets — including autonomous systems.