Sep 21, 2023
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks Announces Award for Innovation Hubs Transcript
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks Announces Award for Innovation Hubs. Read the transcript here.
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Well, good morning, everyone. I have two different announcements to make today. First, today is the 12th anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a historic day for the Department of Defense that made our military stronger and more just. I hope that you all saw Secretary Austin’s statement on the anniversary, which went out earlier this morning. As the Secretary notes, decades of laws and policies have forced service members to hide who they are left a long and cruel legacy. Not just in terms of the individual traumas wrought upon service members and family members, but also as tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines were expelled from the military. And we know there are cases when LGBTQ+ service members were given discharges that may have denied them access to veterans’ benefits like home loans, healthcare, GI Bill tuition assistance, and even some government jobs.
Since the day of the repeal, DOD has helped eligible veterans who were discharged because of their sexual orientation access the benefits they deserve. More than four out of five veterans who were discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell who’ve applied for discharge upgrades or records corrections have been successful. But others might not yet have taken the opportunity. Perhaps they tried 5, 10, or 12 years ago when the application process may have been even harder to navigate than it seems today.
Perhaps they were worried about whether they would be treated with dignity and respect after the painful experiences they had suffered during the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell era, or maybe they didn’t know it was an option for them. And so we know the task remains unfinished. More work remains to reach every veteran whose life was impacted by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
That’s why today as we mark this anniversary, DOD is announcing new initiatives to better reach affected veterans and correct their records as necessary to better reflect the honor with which they served. These initiatives build upon what we’ve done over the past two plus years to try to make the process even easier to access and apply.
For one, we’re redoubling our outreach to LGBTQ+ veterans discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to encourage anyone who might be eligible to apply for corrections to their military records, including to their discharge paperwork. This outreach campaign will be online, by email, by mail through nonprofits and veteran service organizations and more. It starts today with a new online resource on defense.gov, which we’ll continue to update with relevant information. And there will be more to come, including podcasts and webinars to explain how the process works, demystify it, and encourage even those who aren’t sure if they’re eligible to consider applying.
Additionally, we are announcing that DOD will for the first time begin proactively reviewing the military records of veterans discharged because of their sexual orientation who may be eligible for discharge upgrades, but have not yet applied.
We’ll start with those discharged during the period of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Where the VA and the National Archives might have digitized records that can help expedite our review, we’ll seek to collaborate with them. And when we find indications that someone’s less than honorable discharge was due to their sexual orientation, we’ll put their name forward to their respective military department’s review board for consideration. As we do this, we will be laser focused on preserving the privacy and dignity of each veteran.
This new initiative will help DOD better address the injustice of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. But we know that even as DOD begins these systematic records reviews, we may not catch everyone who’s eligible. For instance, if someone’s military records or discharge papers don’t say why they stopped serving, then we might not be able to discern whether Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a factor.
So we encourage everyone to visit the new webpage to share it widely and for any veteran who believes their less than honorable discharge was caused by those wrongful laws and policies to apply and help the nation keep righting these wrongs.
At the same time, we know correcting these records cannot fully restore the dignity taken from LGBTQ+ service members when they were expelled from the military. It doesn’t completely heal the unseen wounds that were left. It doesn’t make people whole again, even for those many who received honorable discharges. But this is yet another step we are taking to make sure we do right by those who served honorably, despite being forced to hide who they are and who they love while serving the country they love.
Even if the Department didn’t see it then, we see it now. We see you now. We value your service and we’re grateful.
My second announcement today is that DOD has made its first major awards from the CHIPS and Science Act which President Biden signed last August. That moment was a bipartisan victory for our national security and our economic security, a once in a generation investment in America itself, as President Biden said that day. It made clear to America and the world that the US government is committed to ensuring that our industrial and scientific powerhouses can deliver what we need to secure our future in this era of strategic competition.
CHIPS proved that we can do big things, sparking programs and initiatives across the Biden-Harris administration and across the Department of Defense where we work closely with many inter-agency colleagues on CHIPS implementation.
I’m here to talk about one such program, the Microelectronics Commons, which has been spearheaded by the Office of the Undersecretary for Research and Engineering, and Secretary Austin and I really appreciate the hard and fast work from Undersecretary Shyu and her team. The Microelectronics Commons is focused on bridging and accelerating the lab-to-fab transition, that infamous Valley of Death between research and development and production. Because while America is a world leader in the innovative research and design of microelectronics, we’ve lagged in the ability to prototype, manufacture, and produce them at scale. That’s what the CHIPS Act is meant to supercharge.
At the heart of bridging that Valley of Death is a national network of regional innovation hubs, linking diverse stakeholders across academia, industry, small businesses, nonprofits and government, bringing research to life at scale here in America.
These hubs are not just vital to American scientific manufacturing and economic competitiveness. They will also directly contribute to this department’s national defense mission. Consistent with our war fighter-centric approach, the Microelectronics Commons will get the most cutting-edge microchips into systems our troops use every day. Ships, planes, tanks, long range munitions, communications gear, sensors, and much more, including the kinds of all-domain, attritable autonomous
Kathleen Hicks (08:00):
… anonymous systems that will be fielding through DOD’s recently announced Replicator initiative. Since last December we received 83 proposal submissions for potential hubs, comprising 642 unique organizations included as perspective hub members, reflecting America’s vast innovation potential. To assess each one, we gathered a technical team of over 50 experts from not only DOD, but also the departments of Commerce, State and Energy. Today, after careful deliberation, we’re announcing the first awards totaling nearly $240 million, for eight regional innovation hubs reflecting the talent and ingenuity resident all over the country. More than 360 distinct member organizations will benefit from today’s awards, located across 35 states, DC and Puerto Rico, from Alabama to Washington, Georgia to Pennsylvania, Montana, Michigan, Minnesota, and many more. Each hub will receive between 15 million and $40 million, depending on their needs and the existing resources they’ll leverage. They’ll focus on areas like electromagnetic warfare, secure computing at the tactical edge and the internet of things, AI hardware, 5G and 6G wireless, quantum, and other leap ahead technologies, all to meet DODs needs and many with dual-use applications.
The home basis for the eight hubs will be as follows. In New York, where SUNY Polytech and its 51 hub members will launch the Northeast Regional Defense Tech Hub. In Arizona, where ASU and its 27 hub members will launch the Southwest Advanced Prototyping Hub. In North Carolina, where NC State and its seven hub members will launch the Commercial Leap Ahead for Wide Bandgap Semiconductors Hub. In Indiana, where the Applied Research Institute and its 130 hub members, will launch the Silicon Crossroads Microelectronics Commons Hub.
In Ohio, where the Midwest Microelectronics Consortium will launch a hub with its 65 members. In Southern California, where USC and its 16 hub members, will launch the California Defense Ready Electronics and Microdevices Superhub. In New England, where the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative with its 90 hub members, will launch the Northeast Microelectronics Coalition Hub. And in Northern California, where Stanford, Cal Berkeley, and their 44 hub members, will launch the California Pacific Northwest Artificial Intelligence Hardware Hub.
In these states and some two dozen others the regional hubs will spur economic growth, not just locally, but also more broadly, as R&D budgets rise, supporting industries meet higher demand, and tech innovations spin off into new markets. On the workforce front, the hubs will help ensure we have the talent pool needed to stay ahead through education pipelines and retraining initiatives. And it’s part of how DOD is reducing its reliance on foreign components, keeping us safe from the risks of supply chain disruption.
Again, this is just one piece of the overall CHIPS effort. Next month the Defense Department will host the first Microelectronics Commons Annual Meeting, where we’ll hear directly from the hubs as they present their capabilities, and from government officials on defense priorities then will come the actual projects that the hubs will help deliver when organizations that didn’t receive awards today can still compete for hundreds of millions of dollars and opportunities that will be available over the next few years.
It’s an exciting day with many more exciting days to come. The CHIPS and Science Act exemplifies how, from day one, we’ve been showing what America is capable of when faced with a pressing challenge and we will continue to do so. And with that, I’ll take some questions. Okay.
Speaker 1 (12:10):
First we’re going to go to the phone lines with Tara Copp, Associated Press.
Tara Copp (12:15):
Hi. Thank you for doing this. On the outreach for the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, how often are you hearing from veterans who say that they have been denied these lifetime benefits, like home loans and education? And what was really the spur to do this outreach now?
Kathleen Hicks (12:34):
Sure. So we have been, as I said, undertaking efforts all along the way since the repeal to do significant outreach, including just two years ago in 2021, the Biden-Harris administration, we had a big push there. We just learn more as we go and we keep hearing stories that make us think we should do even more outreach. That’s where this proactive step comes in.
But as I said, it really builds on work that we’ve done. If you look at the statistics we’ve now published up on our own website, you’ll see that we’ve had this very high, as I said, four out of five in many cases, veterans who’ve applied, successfully applied. And so we want to just put that information out there. We know we’re not going to catch everyone through the proactive, we want people to still come to us. And we want to make sure we continue to hear the stories that you’re referencing. We need to hear those, so we can continue to learn from here.
Speaker 1 (13:27):
Just follow up on that. Why now? Why today specifically?
Kathleen Hicks (13:33):
Well, today’s the anniversary of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so we’ve been working on a number of initiatives and today’s the day we want to roll them out. Obviously getting the webpage up and running, making sure we’re ready to go for the proactive review. That’s why today’s the day we want to talk about it. It’s a good day to focus on the injustices that have occurred and the efforts that we need to continue to take to write them.
Speaker 1 (13:53):
Okay, right here.
John Harper (13:54):
Thank you. With regard to the CHIPS Act, how will you ensure that these microelectronics that are manufactured by these hubs actually make it into DOD’s systems? Will you be mandating that through contracts, or will this be government-furnished equipment that go to contractors to put into their systems? How do you ensure that what these hubs actually produce actually get used?
Kathleen Hicks (14:13):
Sure. So let me first say I’m going to be followed by Dr. Honey, who can get into more direct detail on the way that the system is going to operate in terms of the DOD contracting process. But the way we’ve approached it, yes, is putting out the need statements of the types of microelectronics we need.
Let me step back and say, the Department of Defense is like any other consumer in the following way. We consume microelectronics that are out on the commercial market. What Microelectronics Commons does is helps us inject into that system the specific needs that we have, as I read out some of those technology areas of focus, there’ll be others. We help to direct investment like we do anywhere else we put government R&D. That’s what we’re going to be able to do here, is to drive, with our dollars, the specific investment areas we need.
And then as a consumer out the other end of that, however it produces, if you will, the fact that we can get that out of United States manufacturing is more secure for our supply chain.
John Harper (15:11):
So DOD will be purchasing these from the hubs and then provide-
Kathleen Hicks (15:12):
No, think of the hubs as part of an ecosystem. At the end of that ecosystem are fabs and the fabs actually are the ones that end up producing. We have fabs elsewhere in the world. We will still have those allied-based fabs, if you will. But what we’re doing here is generating a lot more ingenuity in that fab process in the United States, and gearing it up through these hubs with a lot of energy on the types of microelectronics, on the types of problem sets that we need those fabs to produce at the other end.
And yes, then we will be purchasing what is produced out of US fabs alongside, again, some that are located in allied countries.
Speaker 1 (15:54):
Okay. Oren Liebermann, CNN.
Oren Liebermann (15:55):
I wanted to ask two unrelated, but current questions. First, if you could comment
Speaker 2 (16:00):
… on how a potential government shutdown would affect DOD operations, since we’re looking at the very real possibility?
And second, if I may, Senator Tommy Tuberville is expected to try to force a vote on at least one blocked military nominee. From your perspective as the civilian leadership for DOD, what effect has that block had on DOD ops?
Kathleen Hicks (16:19):
Yeah, let me do these … Thank you. Let me do those in reverse order.
Senator Tuberville’s hold needs to end now. It’s unnecessary; it’s unprecedented; it’s unsafe. It’s bad for our military; it’s bad for our military families; and it’s bad for America.
When you get to the shutdown, the department has regrettably learned how to operate in the short-term through shutdowns. We’re asking our military service members, those in uniform, to serve without pay. We are asking our folks to do what they do best, which is to be doers and problem-solvers. We would ask for our partners in Congress to do the same. Let’s be problem solvers.
We will make sure we keep America safe, as we can, throughout this shutdown, if there is one, and through any C.R. But we’re asking a lot, at this point, to not be able to operate as fully as we would be able to. The PRC is not shutting down its operations. Russia’s not shutting down its operations against Ukraine. We need to avert any kind of effect that a shutdown could have, not just on the Defense Department but throughout the federal government.
Speaker 3 (17:29):
Okay. Thank you very much. That’s going to conclude the deputy secretary’s briefing. If you’ll give us just a moment to reset, we’ll get Dr. Honey up. Thank you.
Okay, and ladies and gentlemen, as I have mentioned earlier, this is Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Dr. David Honey. He’s going to provide us some more detail on the Microelectronics Commons announcement.
After you, sir.
David Honey (18:04):
Thank you. Good morning, everyone, and I’d like to first thank Deputy Secretary Hicks and her team for their support for this program and today’s announcement. The interagency team has been working hard on this effort. We’re very excited to be able to share this information with you today.
The U.S. military has an ever-increasing need for innovation in our weapon systems, while we are also facing uncertainty in our supply chains. The Commons model, with spokes reaching out across our nation, enables us to partner with industry and academia so that they can help lead us into the future. By leveraging our partners’ strengths, the Commons is positioned to be a vital driver of the goals set forth in the CHIPS Act.
The Commons, as you may have seen, will receive $2 billion in funding over five years, and this will be applied across six technology areas of interest to us, and these are artificial intelligence hardware, 5G and 6G, Internet of Things, quantum, electromagnetic warfare and leap-ahead commercial technology. As the world’s biggest systems integrator, DOD and its industrial base will benefit from each of these areas.
We also believe that much of the work that will take place in these topic areas has a high potential for purely commercial purposes as well, and we the DOD see tremendous benefit when there is a strong dual-purpose market.
So what’s next? Now that we’ve selected the hubs which will provide laboratory to fab infrastructure for R&D and other innovative development projects, our next solicitation for proposals in the Commons will be the call for project solicitations, which is scheduled to occur very soon. And then each year in the third quarter of the fiscal year there will be additional calls for projects as that gets released.
One other think I want to point out, though, is importantly, an organization does not need to be a member of a hub to submit a project topic, and further guidance on how all this is going to work is forthcoming. It will be available very soon.
One other point about the hubs: The hubs are intended to serve as a national resource for commercial users and other U.S. government organizations outside of the Commons program and outside of DOD. So anyone can perform work using the resources of the hubs. You do not need a DOD contract, and in fact, it is our hope that each of the hubs will attract significant non-DOD business and eventually become self- sustaining, at least in terms of covering their operations and maintenance expenses.
More information on the details of how all of this works will be available at our next big public event, which as the secretary mentioned, will be in October. That is our inaugural annual Microelectronics Commons meeting. It will be October 17th to 18th held here in Washington, D.C. Additional information and registration for those that are interested, and it is open to the public, is available at microelectronicscommons.org, and attendees will have an opportunity to hear from government leaders, including Deputy Secretary Hicks. And attendees will also have the opportunity to hear from all of the hubs, and they’ll be presenting their capabilities and the opportunity for anyone who’s interested in working in the hubs or working with the hubs or through the hubs to hear what’s available.
Also, we intend to have folks there from the government team who can talk about the project technical areas, the interest that DOD has and continue the conversation with all of our ecosystem that will be there attending with us.
And in closing, what I would to do, though, is take the opportunity to thank everyone who’s helped us out during the time that we’ve been working on this activity. We’ve gotten tremendous support from across the administration and the Congress, and I appreciate all that they’ve done to help us get to where we are today. The interagency team has been phenomenal. We’ve had participation in fact, in all of our six source-selection teams. Of course, there were DOD subject matter experts, but also folks from Department of Commerce, Energy, State, NSF, NIST. It was a great team that’s come together, and we continue to have regular engagements across the interagency of all of the CHIPS activities that show that we are exchanging information and working together collaboratively.
And finally, what I’d like to do is thank our Naval Surface Warfare Center team from Navy Crane, who has done a tremendous amount of heavy lift over the time that we’ve been building this out to make all of this happen today. We couldn’t have gotten it done without them, so Crane folks, thank you for being here today, and also for all the work that you’ve done to make this happen.
And again, I hope folks will come to the meetings 17 to 18 October to hear more about the Commons and let us hear your feedback on that, as well. Thank you.
Speaker 3 (22:45):
Okay. Got time for some questions here. I would ask you to state your name and your outlet, please. Carlo?
Carlo Munoz (22:52):
Carlo Munoz with Janes. Just wanted to ask about the upcoming meeting. Secretary Hicks mentioned that the government representatives would be mentioning defense priorities, potentially outside of the technology priorities you listed. Can you give me an idea of sort of how that sort of thinking is coming together? I mean, is it focused on some of the competition coming from the Indo-Pacific? Like, where are those priorities that DOD’s planning to bring to [inaudible 00:23:16]?
David Honey (23:16):
So within each of the fixed-tech areas, there’s a lot of opportunity for developments that would benefit the DOD. And so the folks from the government team that will be there are those researchers and program managers who have experience in developing the weapon systems that go into all of the various support to combatant commands. What they’ll be doing at the unclassified level is sharing their insights on where they think the greatest opportunities are for innovation and development coming through the hubs that would lead to an advantage for our systems.
Speaker 3 (23:46):
Liam Cosgrove (23:48):
Thank you. Liam Cosgrove here with The Grayzone. So this is just kind of a broad question on the CHIPS Act. Because the impetus for it was this idea that Taiwan dominates the global chip market that make these more
Liam Cosgrove (24:00):
More advanced chips than we do. My main question, I guess, is TSMC, their largest producer, is working on a plant in Arizona, they’re working on plants in Japan and Germany. In the event of an invasion, which hopefully never happens, but theoretically we could still produce there in Arizona with their plant import from Japan, Germany, from our allies. Have you thought about that, whether that undermines the rationale of the CHIPS Act to begin with, or if you’ve just thought of that scenario?
David Honey (24:30):
One of the big strategic pushes within the CHIPS Act has been on-shoring of capabilities, but also one thing about the microelectronics area is it’s always moving forward. There are always new advances. People have been talking about the end of Moore’s Law for quite some time, but it hasn’t ended yet. Just as we start to see the node size, the feature size, getting smaller and smaller, other organizations like DARPA through the Electronics Resurgence Initiative go to 3D and produce yet another set of advancements in microelectronics. One of the goals out of the Commons program is to develop those capabilities here in the US and have that available for DOD and for commercial as well.
Liam Cosgrove (25:14):
One quick followup. When do you think we could expect to see any results? I guess it’s hard to say because it’s all theoretical research, but how soon do you think we could see maybe a breakthrough or some kind of tangible results from it?
David Honey (25:29):
With the Microelectronics Commons, the hubs are now just finding out that they’ve been awarded. Their proposals though are very detailed and they have great action plans. So if we apply the funding, they know exactly what they’re going to do. For me, the first big result is getting these infrastructures set up.
Previously, a lot of the prototyping experimentation work that the hubs will support, people had to go overseas to get it done. Now we’ll be able to get it done here, and also we’re building out in areas that are just not available anywhere else. The first major accomplishment, just getting the hubs established, getting some projects running through them so that their operations, they can work out the bugs and whatnot. The next big accomplishment will be when we start getting projects in from the broader community, those are probably going to be fairly mature ideas. So the time to market will probably be much faster than a lot of other programs we support where we go for a much more fundamental investment in basic science and then take several years to get there. My expectation is that you’ll probably see CHIPS coming through this well before the five years of the program is over, we should already see, I’m guessing, product coming out that’s available for use.
Speaker 4 (26:41):
We’ll take one more here in the room and then we’ll go to the phone.
John Harper (26:44):
Thank you. John Harper with Defense Scoop. Will it be up to individual DOD components or agencies or contractors to just procure these on their own and just decide if they want these end products for their weapon systems? How will that work in terms of DOD being the purchaser or the procurer of the final end product?
David Honey (27:06):
Right. What we will be from where we are in R and E, with our CTO function, we will be educating the services and the folks who write the requirements on what’s going on in the commons so that as they’re thinking about the future requirements that they’re going to establish or what the opportunities are for future weapon systems development, they’re aware of the state-of-the-art and what’s coming through the commons so they can then set, if they choose to do so, they can set the expectations in future solicitations for the kind of capabilities that they want. That’s really how we’ll try and drive that particular activity.
John Harper (27:45):
Speaker 4 (27:46):
Okay. Going to jump to the phone. Georgina from Inside Defense. Are you still on?
Yes, I am. Thank you so much for this briefing today. Why were these eight hubs selected and will any more hubs be opened up in the coming years as technology advances and new areas of focus may need to be addressed?
David Honey (28:07):
As Secretary Hicks mentioned, there were 83 proposals. Out of those proposals, the six selection teams reviewed all of these proposals and the source selection authorities then looked at the funding we had available and made the decision on what was the best balance, what was the best approach to meet DOD needs. Originally we had said we would select up to nine, they made the decision that eight hubs would get adequate coverage and leave enough funding for projects. At this time, I don’t see that future hubs will be selected. However, we are agile in looking at the situation, and if certainly we felt that that was needed, we would take a look at it and see if that better met the needs of the department.
Speaker 4 (28:58):
We’ll do one last question. Ellen with Synopsis, are you still on? Kimberly with Signal, are you still on?
Yes. Thank you. I wanted to ask, you mentioned of course the eight regional hubs, could you specifically talk about the two in California, the one in Southern California and Northern California, what they’ll be focusing on differently? Thank you.
David Honey (29:34):
I am going to phone a friend on that one. Can anybody… I don’t know. I don’t have the proposal with me, so I don’t-
Speaker 4 (29:40):
We’ll take that question and we’ll get-
Speaker 5 (29:42):
California has 5G, Northern California has AI Hardware.
David Honey (29:46):
Okay. That’s it.
Speaker 4 (29:46):
David Honey (29:48):
Again, if you come to the meeting 17 to 18 October, all of the hubs will be on display, because that’s their chance to really inform the broader public of what their capabilities are, because again, we have projects that will be running through the hubs, but these hubs will be open for business for other people to come in and use them as well. It’d be a great opportunity for others to hear about what they’re doing, and again, all the details will be there at that time.
Speaker 4 (30:11):
Okay. Dr. Honey, appreciate your time.
David Honey (30:13):
Speaker 4 (30:14):
That will conclude today’s briefing. Appreciate everybody’s time. Thanks.