WASHINGTON: During a recent visit to South Korea, President Joe Biden and a team of US officials established a new annual forum to broaden cooperation on emerging technologies in areas the Defense Department deems critical: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, space development, cyberspace, semiconductors, batteries and civil nuclear power.
The annual meet-up will be an extension of the Technology Cooperation Subcommittee (TCSC), established in 1990 for DoD science and technology cooperation with the Republic of Korea (ROK). Each meeting will focus on specific topics, starting with space domain awareness.
The first forum is anticipated to be held later this summer or early fall in Korea, David Honey, deputy undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said today at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Biden’s visit in late May came a few months after the White House released its Indo-Pacific Strategy in February, which called for closer collaboration with allies on emerging technologies and strengthening regional security partnerships in order to counter China.
“The strategy pointed to the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific that is more connected, prosperous, secure and resilient,” Honey said. “The ROK is a critical element of this strategy. Like the ROK, we aim to promote regional security and capacity building.”
Also in February, Heidi Shyu, Undersecretary for Research and Engineering, published her strategic vision for the department aimed at 14 critical areas including quantum science, hypersonic weapons and directed energy.
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In a Feb. 1 memo obtained by Breaking Defense, Shyu placed those 14 technologies into three broad categories: seed areas of emerging opportunity, effective adoption areas and defense-specific areas.
Beyond the space domain awareness meeting, Honey today said those three pillars will help deliver top technology to DoD, and the US and ROK want to focus on five areas that impact global supply chain security. Those five areas include AI and machine learning, increasing investment in fifth- and future-generation wireless technology, developing open and secure 5G and 6G network devices and architectures and quantum science and sensors.
“Our near-term technology focus is on advanced atomic clocks and quantum sensors to improve navigation and timing reliability beyond GPS and improve our access to the spectrum,” Honey said.
The military services have increasingly become focused on finding GPS alternatives, which can be vulnerable to jamming and spoofing.
The Army has its own project called the One World Terrain, which serves as a 3D map of the globe used for training in GPS-denied environments, and earlier this year DARPA, the Pentagon’s technology research agency, put out a call seeking industry partners to develop robust optical clocks that rely less on GPS and enable more resilient timing capabilities.
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“Optical precision timing techniques provide a means for orders of magnitude higher precision and accuracy, but, just as importantly, they enable more resilient timing capabilities with less reliance on GPS by virtue of longer holdover times and usage of optical signals that are more difficult to jam or spoof,” DARPA’s Broad Agency Announcement for the project, called the Robust Optical Clock Network, said.
ROCkN is anticipated to be 100 times better than current clocks and GPS, Tatjana Curcic, program manager for the ROCkN project, told Breaking Defense in an interview. The program could also lead to a potential future networked clock architecture for all military activities.
Honey added the US-ROK alliance, established in 1953, “remains the linchpin of peace and security in the western Pacific and the Korean peninsula.”
“This alliance continues to maintain a robust combined defense posture to protect the Republic of Korea against any threat or adversary,” he added.