What role does RRTO play in defense innovation?
It brings the creative new ideas from industry to government together and applies them to command and service needs, creating technology that advances DoD modernization and ensures U.S. military technical superiority. RRTO's strength is its ability to discover new ideas for emerging technologies, turn them into executable programs, and deliver capability to the warfighter.
You have managed RRTO’s innovation outreach since 2003. What does that entail?
The Innovation Outreach program encourages dialogue with new, nontraditional technology developers whose solutions may support DoD’s most pressing requirements. A big part of the program’s approach is lowering barriers to entry for these organizations, which are often inexperienced with government procurement processes.
Last year, the program received over 1,600 responses to stated DoD needs. Sixty-five submissions were presented to a government audience, resulting in discussions with over a dozen companies that DoD may not have discovered otherwise. RRTO has released its 2021 Global Needs Statement seeking innovative technologies with the potential to leap capabilities ahead of near-peer adversaries and fill mission-critical gaps no later than 2028. I have seen the evolution of some truly impressive technology while managing this program over the years.
What does success look like?
It’s all about effectiveness. The most important measurement of RRTO’s effectiveness is the transition of technology from concept to capability. In fiscal year 2020, we transitioned 52 of 59 active projects—an 88% success rate. Other important measures include presenting and defending RRTO’s budget to Congress and ensuring the funding we receive is spent appropriately within the year of execution. We also mentor companies that do not regularly work with DoD. It’s important that RRTO builds positive, lasting relationships and has a reputation for doing so. You could say building trust with our partners is another demonstration of success.