The Senate-approved National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been released for fiscal year (FY) 2021 and reflects good news for NSTXL members. The 2021 budget contains the Department of Defense’s (DoD) largest Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) budget ever, allocating $106.6 billion. The DoD is making new investments in several technology areas that our OTAs focus on including Hypersonics ($3.2 billion), Microelectronics/5G ($1.5 billion), Autonomy ($1.7 billion), and Artificial Intelligence ($841 million).
The NDAA recognizes (through aggressive funding) that in order to maintain a technological advantage over geopolitical adversaries, the DoD must accelerate innovation through both subsystem and full-scale prototypes, including hypersonic weapons, based on a detailed understanding of what is necessary to achieve technical and technological maturity. The NDAA encourages the development of hypersonic weapons, as well as defenses against hypersonic weapons of our competitors – an area of intense technological competition among the United States, China and Russia. The NDAA authorizes $200 million above the President’s request to prototype new critical subsystems for naval vessels, including unmanned vessels. More generally, it strengthens Science and Technology efforts in emerging technologies, by requiring: an assessment of U.S. efforts to develop biotechnologies compared to our adversaries; development of Artificial Intelligence use-cases for reform efforts; enhancements to the Quantum Information Science research and development program; and a demonstration of innovative 5G commercial technologies.
For NSTXL members, we believe that this budget will increase both the number and size of opportunities across existing technology areas. We are working with clients to extend nine new prototype opportunities this Fall, with the potential for more in 2021. We also believe that this budget will require our members to quicken the pace of technology discovery and bring the best commercial innovators into their teams. We are building a process to help our members stay ahead of the curve. More information on our new member offerings will be released soon.