SOCOM's Tech Initiatives Reflect Old, New Mission Sets.

Author:Tadjdeh, Yasmin

Special Operations Command is investing in new technologies and weapons with an eye toward balancing its current counterterrorism missions with great power competition.

Command leadership and program executive officers met with industry virtually in May to share details on new hardware and software initiatives at the Virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, which was hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association.

SOCOM's most wanted capabilities include: biotechnologies/human interface; network and data management; next-generation effects/precision strike; next-generation intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance/tactically relevant situational awareness; hyper-enabled operator; and next-generation mobility, according to officials.

One of the command's most high-profile efforts is the hyper-enabled operator concept, which is meant to give operators enhanced cognitive capabilities on the battlefield, said James Smith, SOCOM's acquisition executive.

"We're talking about ... improving your cognitive overmatch at the edge," he said. "The edge for us ... is this small unit, individual operator, operating in a remote, austere environment."

Army Col. Ryan Barnes, director of SOCOM's Joint Acquisition Task Force, said the hyper-enabled operator concept will give commandos better access to the internet of things, which refers to a system of interconnected devices.

Many of the technologies SOCOM wants to give warfighters--such as facial recognition systems--already exist in the commercial space, so officials are looking to integrate commercial-offthe-shelf and government-off-the-shelf materials into a consolidated solution, he said.

"We are looking to put those types of sensors and communication devices on an operator collecting information in the operational environment," he said. The system would be able to analyze data in near real time using advanced analytics. That would be a marked improvement over older technology that could sometimes take hours, days or even weeks to crunch data, he added.

Lisa Sanders, director of science and technology at Special Operations Command, said SOCOM wants to give operators the same access to information that they are accustomed to accessing outside working hours.

"The hyper-enabled operator work that we're focusing on really is about getting that capability [of connectivity] that you assume that you have in your personal life in a tactically relevant environment, and being able to adapt as that environment changes," she said during a media roundtable.

Special Operations Command is also interested in developing new artificial intelligence technology for its weapons platforms, said SOCOM Commander Army Gen. Richard Clarke.

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