BALTIMORE (Nov. 15, 2011) -- Military officials mingled with thousands of industry representatives Nov. 7-10 for MILCOM 2011 at the Baltimore Convention Center. The annual event is touted by its organizers as the "premier international conference for military communications."

For Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, the gathering provided a venue to discuss the impacts of implementing better buying power in Department of Defense research and development, or R&D.

Justice moderated a panel of senior leaders from across military research organizations, including John Miller, the director of the Army Research Laboratory; Walter Jones, the executive director of the Office of Naval Research; and Donald Woodbury, the director of the Strategic Technology Office from the Defense Advanced Research Agency.

Each of the subject matter experts spoke about how they were meeting the challenge of conducting innovative research and development in a resource-constrained environment.

Miller highlighted what the Army Research Laboratory is doing in the face of the budget limitations.

"Some things that I'd like to focus on as we move into much more austere environments are leveraging our investments, pooling our investments through innovative partnerships, and focusing on technology for affordability, as well as early evaluations of not only technologies, but system concepts," Miller said.

The goal of significantly reducing costs in research and development may be achieved if vulnerabilities are discovered early on, he explained.

Miller said his organization is looking at affordability and controlling cost growth, incentivizing productivity and innovation in industry, and promoting real competition.

"How can we in the S&T community promote competition?" Woodbury asked.

Woodbury explained how the DOD may leverage commercial technology and components.

"We are at a time when the military communications market is evolving very rapidly and it's an opportunity for all of us to get affordable, high-performance technology into the hands of the warfighter," Woodbury said.

Industry uses planned obsolescence for introducing new technologies such as smart phone developments.

"Planned obsolescence reduces sustainment costs substantially," Justice said. "I think that is a tremendous way to get in line with business."

Miller also said it is important to consider supportability early in the process.

"We need to leverage and partner," he said. "We need to do that within the DOoD as well so that we are pooling our resources and addressing the fundamental core requirements we have for new systems and new technology across all the services. Innovative partnerships are fundamental to our business processes."

Following the presentations, Justice opened the floor to a stream of questions from conference attendees.

"We are all very fortunate because we work in a fascinating field," Justice said. "Even in hard times, its still exciting in this industry, and we just have to be better systems thinkers, as well as systems engineers."