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A group of technology “squads” exploring off-the-beaten-path approaches to keep the US military’s technology edge—the Long-Range Research and Development Program Plan of the Pentagon’s “third offset” strategy—will report in March, and their findings will inform the Fiscal 2017 defense R&D budget, Pentagon systems engineering chief Stephen Welby said Friday. Speaking with reporters at the Pentagon, Welby said a series of “five-to-six person squads” are reviewing a small mountain of suggestions that have come in from industry regarding novel technologies and operational concepts.  Many of the ideas offered in response to a request for information issued a few months ago “are what you’d expect,” but a few have created some real excitement, Welby said, declining to discuss them. Those having singular merit will be pursued with a streamlined approach, aimed at putting new “tools” in the hands of combat forces in five to seven years and be available military-wide in 15 years, Welby said. Among the investigative areas are space, undersea, air dominance, strike, air and missile defense, and “other technology-driven” concepts. One key area where DOD needs help is “how we live in a world where others have precision-guided munitions” that can threaten the US and its allies at range, Welby noted. Machine autonomy and “big data” are key interest areas, he added.