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Other nations are going to school on how the US organizes, buys, and employs key technology, from satellites to smart weapons, the Defense Department’s top acquisitions official said during a technology conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. As a result, the US is in a global competition for the human capital, financial resources, and basic research capability needed to assure technological superiority in the future, said Katrina McFarland, DOD’s assistant secretary of defense for acquisition. The US tech edge is not assured if research and development is treated as a variable cost in the future, which is why DOD has moved to protect as much key R&D funding as possible in its base budget. This is why the US must act to address affordability in its present systems, and must invest to achieve a “technological surprise.” The Defense Department’s Better Buying Power 3.0 effort is a push to achieve this, she added, and part of this effort will involve taking risks with research. “If we want to continue to be the superior force, we need to take chances,” she said.