In 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter outlined his Force of the Future initiative which is aimed at building the military, and broader Department of Defense (DoD), needed to serve and defend our country in the years to come. Much of the Force of the Future vision focuses on attracting and retaining the best talent in the uniformed and civilian ranks.  To get the best talent, Secretary Carter plans to make DoD a more modern and attractive employer by becoming a leader in technology development. This would provide students and young professionals the ability to work for a leading organization in technology development, a compensation plan that rewards and promotes based on performance and talent, and an opportunity to serve their country.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter greets the audience before participating in a roundtable discussion with members of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y., March 31, 2015. Carter spoke about his “force of the future” initiative. DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett

In April 2016, Secretary Carter announced that DoD is partnering with an 89-member consortium to establish a new manufacturing innovation institute focused on revolutionary fibers and textiles. Speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Carter said that Advanced Functional Fabrics of America is a competitively selected group of companies, universities, non-profits, research organizations and startup incubators organized by MIT. “This is a pioneering field combining fibers and yarns with … flexible integrated circuits, LEDs, solar cells, electronic sensors and other capabilities to create fabrics and cloths that can see, hear, sense, communicate, store energy, regulate temperature, monitor health, change color and much more,” the secretary added. The department is making a $75 million investment that has been matched more than three times over with more than $240 million dollars in contributions from public- and private-sector partners.1 Through these types of engagements and technology development programs, the Department can and will attract the best talent the nation has to offer.

With the realities of constrained budgets, worldwide commitments, withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and increasing regulatory pressures, DoD must develop cost-effective and sustainable environmental and energy solutions. It is encouraging that our leadership seeks to address DoD’s environmental and installation energy challenges through advances in science, engineering, and technology. Initiatives such as the Force of the Future align with the mission of SERDP and ESTCP in that technology is seen as the solution for addressing DoDs critical problems.  The efforts of SERDP and ESTCP fit with Secretary Carter’s plan by providing DoD with a portfolio of cutting edge innovations that place the Department at the forefront of technology development.  Both SERDP and ESTCP and the Force of the Future also rely on attracting the next generation of talent in order to be sustainable. As the next generation of Principal Investigators execute their research, they provide new skills and perspectives to the ongoing effort of addressing DoD’s installation energy and environmental challenges. In doing so, they also contribute to the development of the Force of the Future that will address DoD’s challenges in the years to come.

1 Pellerin, Cheryl, DoD News, Defense Media Activity, April 01, 2016,