Hicks: DOD plans to invest about $1B into Replicator initiative in 2024-2025 time frame

The stated goal of Replicator is to deliver thousands of relatively low-cost, “attritable” autonomous systems across multiple domains in 18 to 24 months to help the Pentagon counter China’s military buildup.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks speaks to members of the media at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Sept. 20, 2023. (DoD Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Jack Sanders)

The Pentagon aims to spend about $1 billion total in fiscal 2024-2025 on its Replicator initiative, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks revealed Monday.

The stated goal of Replicator, which Hicks announced last year, is to deliver thousands of relatively low-cost, “attritable” autonomous systems across multiple domains in 18 to 24 months to help the Pentagon counter China’s military buildup.

“The initiative focuses on creating on-ramps for new capabilities, systems and commercial partners that fill both operational and scaling gaps with available resources,” according to fiscal 2025 budget documents released Monday. “The Components [of the Department of Defense] have been asked to prioritize Replicator capabilities and systems given the relevant operational need.”

The Silicon Valley-headquartered Defense Innovation Unit is also supporting the effort.


Replicator is not a standalone program of record with its own budget line, officials have noted, but various programs across the Defense Department that do have their own funding lines will fall under the umbrella of the initiative — which aims to give a boost to technologies that are already in the works so they can be fielded faster or in larger quantities than they would otherwise if they weren’t given special attention.

Hicks has selected a handful of capabilities for the first increment, and the services have been developing plans for delivering specific systems to meet those needs.

“The level of … spending to think about in Replicator in FY ‘24 is around $500 million, and in FY ‘25 is around $500 million. That’s sort of the sum total of what we anticipate. This is a pathfinder. It’s largely about reducing barriers inside our system in a process that the Vice Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Christopher Grady] and I run. But obviously, there are dollars associated with getting the actual thousands on the 18-to-24-month timeline out the door. It is my fervent view that follow-on to that is a significant investment potential that is not about Replicator, that is about what the services are going to be able to do on autonomy once we’re able to lower those barriers through that initial investment,” Hicks said Monday during a press briefing on the budget at the Pentagon.

The Defense Department aims to work with Congress to get the funding.

“A reprogramming is a possible solution in FY ’24 — the year that we’re halfway through. [Reprogramming] should not be necessary in ‘25 because we’re proposing it in the budget. Our first hope for FY ’24 — and the deputy has personally engaged with the [congressional] committees on this — is that they will work with us to put some funding in the appropriations conference that we hope to see in two weeks, and therefore a reprogramming would be moot because the funding would be done in in that bill. So step one is to see were they able to get that in there and is the bill able to get to the president’s desk — and then if it is not, then … reprogramming will have to be the approach,” Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord told reporters.


At the direction of Hicks, Pentagon officials have been tight-lipped about which specific systems are part of Replicator.

DefenseScoop has previously reported that the Switchblade 600 kamikaze drone is one of the systems that’s in the running for ramped-up production, although that hasn’t been publicly announced.

Jon Harper

Written by Jon Harper

Jon Harper is Managing Editor of DefenseScoop, the Scoop News Group’s online publication focused on the Pentagon and its pursuit of new capabilities. He leads an award-winning team of journalists in providing breaking news and in-depth analysis on military technology and the ways in which it is shaping how the Defense Department operates and modernizes. You can also follow him on X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter) @Jon_Harper_

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