Congress to DOD: Explain how you’re going to use and sustain Replicator drones

The 2024 Further Consolidated Appropriations Act would task the DOD to brief key committees on its plans for Replicator within 60 days of enactment.
U.S. Capitol, Congress
(Getty Images)

The Pentagon is looking for about $1 billion to support its unmanned systems initiative known as Replicator in fiscal 2024-2025. Now, lawmakers want to know more about how the U.S. military would effectively employ the platforms on the battlefield and sustain them.

The stated goal for the initial push of Replicator, which Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks announced last year, is to deliver thousands of relatively low-cost, “attritable” systems across multiple domains in 18-to-24 months to help the Pentagon counter China’s military buildup. Officials have suggested that Replicator could continue beyond that to address operational needs.

The 2024 Further Consolidated Appropriations Act — the text of which was released Thursday — would task Hicks to brief members of the House and Senate defense appropriations subcommittees no later than 60 days after the enactment of the legislation. She would be required to lay out “the concept of operations for the employment of each such system and relevant threat assessments,” according to the text of a joint explanatory statement accompanying the bill.

The directive would also require the Pentagon to provide updated spending profiles and requirements for sustaining each system that’s been tapped to receive Replicator funding — with the information broken down by fiscal year and military service through fiscal 2029 — as well as security classification guidance related to the effort.


Additionally, lawmakers want a report within 90 days of enactment that provides more insight into how the DOD plans to adopt technologies from the commercial sector for the initiative.

It’s “understood that there is a growing ecosystem of technologies from commercial entities capable of contributing to Replicator’s identified objectives. Therefore, the agreement directs the Deputy Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the congressional defense committees, not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act, which identifies: (1) the total amount of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funds that have been obligated against projects with technologies consistent with the Replicator initiative (such as autonomous, attritable systems); (2) to the extent available, no less than five examples from each Service of commercial entities that have demonstrated autonomous, attritable systems; and (3) instances of commercial entities demonstrating autonomous, attritable systems that transitioned from SBIR projects to programs of record,” according to the explanatory statement.

Last week, Hicks said the Pentagon is looking for around $500 million to facilitate Replicator in fiscal 2024 and another $500 million in fiscal 2025. The appropriations agreement includes upwards of $200 million to support Replicator in fiscal 2024, although the DOD components are also seeking approval to reprogram funding.

“For the first year, we’re taking a reprogramming approach and we need Congress’ support to get through that,” Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Doug Bush said Wednesday during a panel at the Ronald Reagan Institute’s National Security Innovation Base Summit.

Bush told DefenseScoop at the conference that one Army system was chosen for the first round of Replicator and the service is proposing three systems for the second round.

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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