Strategic Capabilities Office aims to transform, innovate existing weapons tech

U.S. Navy

The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) has been working since its inception in 2012 to develop ways in which existing technologies can be transformed for new purposes, creating capabilities that are not known to other nations.

Then-Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter created the group four years ago after taking stock of U.S. defense capabilities and “correctly (realizing) that going back into great-power competition (with Russia and China) is going to require bringing back a lot of capabilities that had gone dormant in the department” since the fall of the Soviet Union, SCO Director Will Roper said during a media roundtable late last week.

“The United States is now a somewhat contested superpower, given that the world's had, in some cases, 20 years to watch our power-projection means in the Middle East,” Roper said. "DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) historically has done future technology better than anyone, so we're willing to accept in SCO that the DARPAs (and others) are going to continue to push out great technology for us. Our job is to try to buy them some time to be able to do those next-generation leap-aheads.”

The SCO transforms technologies in three ways: repurposing systems, integrating two systems that can complement each other and fusing existing systems with new commercial technology. While the office has made some of its projects public, such as repurposing surface-to-air defense missiles so that they can attack offensively, much of its work is kept secret.

"It's also important that we maintain deterrence, so we're starting to share a few of these projects publicly so we can show the world that we can change quickly, we can do things differently, and that regaining the advantage…does not have to be a 14-year technology-development cycle,” Roper said. “So we'd like a taste of this to be outside, but our best projects, I promise you, are behind the door, and they should be.”

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