DoD kickstarts tight-lipped RDER experiments this year: Official

DoD kickstarts tight-lipped RDER experiments this year: Official
Defense Officials Announce HBCU Research Center Initiative

Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu speaks during a press briefing announcing a university-affiliated research center initiative with historically Black colleges and universities, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., June 27, 2022. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is set to begin the first round of experiments this year under an effort aimed at addressing capability gaps and delivering emerging technologies quicker to warfighters, according to Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu.

Speaking at the McAleese conference on Wednesday, Shyu said her office has gotten an early start on the first round of experiments under the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER), a much talked about but tight-lipped effort.

DoD “last year spent a lot of time planning out the details of the exercise,” Shyu said. “And this year, we finally got the money. We’re going to be off and running, literally demonstrating these prototypes in a contested environment. So it…can’t just work in a lab. It’s got to work in a real environment. And that’s exactly what we’re focusing on.”

RDER was first introduced in 2021 by Shyu as an experimentation campaign focused on closing joint capability gaps. At the time, Shyu said she had briefed Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks on 32 proposed areas of experimentation.  

Though not much has been revealed about the specifics of RDER, Shyu has previously said she wants to hold two “sprints” of the experiments per year, focused on long-range fires, predictive logistics and base defense. Shyu has previously said holding two sprints of RDER per year— one every six months — would allow industry to make changes to their prototypes or upgrade them. 

“We’ve already in the planning [stage] gone through three sprints already,” she said. “And not surprisingly, we’re focusing on things like resilient communications, joint command and control.”

Shyu added that for the first sprint her office has joint projects lined up with the UK and Australia. The first sprint will also be included at this year’s Northern Edge training exercises, she said.

The Pentagon requested $687 million for RDER in fiscal 2024, a significant increase from its $358 million FY23 request. 

“It’s double because we’re doing two sprints,” Shyu said on Wednesday, referring to the budget request. “So typically looking…around $300 million to $350 million per sprint. I think that’s a little bit more digestible. Of course, initially they came in and gave me a budget of $1.2 billion. I said, well that’s a bit much, trying to temper down their appetite a little bit.”