WASHINGTON – Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) – Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems Subcommittee ranking member – delivered the following opening statement at a subcommittee hearing entitled “Innovation Opportunities and Vision for the Science and Technology Enterprise.”
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Chairman Langevin. I appreciate you holding this important hearing today and thank you to our witnesses for being here on short notice.
I will note this is the Subcommittee’s inaugural hearing, and the topic couldn’t be more important. We have a vital mission here on the Subcommittee that, in many ways, will shape the future of the Department of Defense and how battles are fought and won.
One of those missions we have is encouraging innovation within the defense enterprise. Too often legacy programs and platforms are prioritized past their usefulness and consume resources for new technologies that will help protect the United States from future threats instead of those from the past. There are many reasons for this issue, from the Department’s culture to Congressional influence.
However, we cannot afford to lose our quantitative or qualitative edge over our near-peer adversaries, especially China, because of bureaucratic inertia and red tape. While we struggle to quickly accomplish our innovation goals, the CCP leverages all its resources through its military-civilian fusion to rush new technologies to the PLA and upend the current global balance of power.
Make no mistake, we are in a competition to innovate, and the side that innovates most effectively and efficiently will hold the strategic advantage the U.S. has held since the end of World War II.
To maintain a decisive edge over China, the Department of Defense must be willing to take bolder risks, develop new programs, and invest in new technologies. Congress, for its part, must encourage and support these actions.
Thus far, Congress has given the Department some authorities to enable the acquisition of new technologies. Yet, we often hear from innovators about the “valley of death.” Taking an idea from a prototype to contract with the Department often takes years, and many small companies and innovators are unable to navigate and survive this process.
The Department’s short-term decision-making impacts the long-term outlook for new technologies. But it doesn’t need to be that way; we need to find ways to cultivate new ideas that don’t fit neatly into strict programmatic timelines.
Innovation also requires a talented workforce, and we should focus on growing innovators within the Department. With all the exciting work going on from AI to bioengineering, the Department should be able to recruit personnel to work on transformational projects. Hubs like DARPA, the JAIC, and SOFWERX offer talented people the opportunity to use their skills to solve the problems of the present and future.
We need to ensure the private sector is not the only driver of innovation. One issue we keep running into is that commercially developed technologies become available to us and our adversaries at the same time. We cannot maintain our edge if we are using the same products concurrently.
One of the key questions I have today, and will continue to try to answer is: how do we make the environment for transformational technologies and innovations more efficient and sustainable? I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on these issues and learning from their in-depth knowledge and experiences.
Thank you for the time, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back.