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Critical Technologies

Critical Technologies

Leaders in Modernization

Each modernization priority is led by a Principal Director, who is responsible for unifying and advancing the Department’s investments and capabilities in that area.  This includes:


Establishing a DoD-wide, mission-focused roadmap to chart the path to deliver the technical capabilities needed by our warfighters


Assessing the range of activities in their technical area, including what is occurring in DoD, other executive branch agencies, the commercial world, academia, and other countries


Leading independent technical analyses


Conducting engagement and outreach across the community.

The PDs are, by definition, meant to work quickly, set the technical direction for the Department in their area of expertise, and ensure the transition of technologies into operational use.


Artificial Intelligence

The DoD will leverage AI to enable U.S. forces to operate more effectively and efficiently. As a Department, we are evaluating which of our processes and procedures can be enabled via adoption of AI technology to meet warfighter needs and Defense priorities.



Biotechnology is an engineering discipline that utilizes or exploits living systems to produce a wide range of technologies and products. Future advances in biotechnology will provide new operational capabilities to the Department of Defense across multiple domains, spanning material & systems, military medicine, warfighter performance, and chem-bio defense.


Autonomy extends and complements human capabilities. Advantages include persistence, size, speed, maneuverability, and reduced risk to human life. The DoD targets seamless integration of diverse unmanned/mixed team capabilities that provide flexible options for the Joint Force.

Soldier in virtual reality glasses.


Cyber is a unique operational domain with significant security challenges and potential leap-ahead capabilities for military operations requiring enhanced command, control and situational awareness, and autonomous operations. Ability to gain and maintain the U.S. technological edge in cyberspace in the face of rapid evolution is essential to maintaining mission readiness.

Directed Energy

When directed energy matures to a deployable capability, our armed forces will have the potential to defend against several types of threats with great precision and minimal collateral damage, at minimal cost per engagement. High Energy Laser (HEL) technology development and advancements in hardware are making laser weapon systems increasingly viable.


Fully Networked Command, Control, and Communications technology encompasses the capability to acquire, process, and disseminate information across force elements. DoD requires a clear path to robust C4I with multiply redundant fully-networked “Comms.” Existing capabilities require sufficient protection against an increasing threat, in pervasiveness and effectiveness.


Microelectronics have been rapidly evolving as the demand for inexpensive and lightweight equipment has increased, and have been incorporated into countless DoD systems. Our modernization ability is jeopardized by foreign microelectronics (ME) production, actions, and investments. We must develop and deliver next generation microelectronic technologies to enhance lethality, ensure critical infrastructure, and achieve economic competitiveness.

Quantum Science

Quantum computers pose an impending threat to secure communications. Continued US dominance in quantum information science will keep us ahead of these risks, and NSA crypto-modernization will protect our most sensitive communications against a quantum computer attack. Quantum sensing will deliver new and assured precision position, navigation, and timing capabilities, keeping our forces safe in GPS-denied theaters. Quantum networks will deliver drastically enhanced sensors for finding and fixing elusive targets, and will deliver resource multiplying effects for commercially developed quantum computers to solve DoD's hardest analytical problems.


Hypersonic weapons travel five or more times the speed of sound. There is a focus on the tactical capability that these sorts of weapons bring to theater conflicts or regional conflicts. Very quick response, high speed, highly maneuverable, difficult to find and track and kill. We are modernizing our offensive and defensive force structure to both utilize and deter this capability.

blue, technology, shuttle, spaceship, rocket


The U.S. way of war, across all domains, is dependent on timely and assured space effects. Adversary capabilities and advancements require us to move quickly to a more defendable and resilient space posture. Added protection and resiliency to our current spacecraft fleet is essential.


5G will bring about wireless, ubiquitous connectivity across humans, machines, and the Internet of Things. DOD will adapt 5G and next generation technologies to "operate through" congested and contested spectrum and in spite of compromised networks to ensure maximum readiness, lethality, and partnering among allies. 5G prototyping and experimentation will be conducted in collaboration with the defense industry and commercial suppliers to accelerate U.S. prominence in the 5G global ecosystem.

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Office of the Under Secretary of Defense,
Research and Engineering (USD(R&E))
The Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301