May 25, 2021  

Author: Captain Sharif H. Calfee – CSBA Federal Executive Fellow

At the individual level, organizations within the Department of the Navy’s research and development ecosystem house significant talent and engage in innovative research at the cutting edge of a wide range of disciplines and technologies that could maintain the U.S. Navy’s technological advantage. However, the Navy’s current unmanned autonomous systems R&D construct has an opportunity to continue improving the organization of this effort to further expand and leverage its recent efforts. 

This report makes the case that a robust, centralized effort–a Navy Autonomy Project Office, or APO–is necessary to achieve capability developments that leverage commercial and academic sector advances in autonomous systems. This effort would reduce barriers to innovation and further promote U.S. Navy efforts to develop, preserve, and extend the advantages that the United States currently enjoys over peer and near-peer adversaries in AI, unmanned autonomous systems, and other key technologies. Going further, this report outlines how the APO would function internally and within the broader R&D ecosystem to coordinate research efforts and maintain the Navy’s technological edge in this field.

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