You are here

Strategic Capabilities Office SBIR Open Topic Call



  • Trusted AI and Autonomy
  • Integrated Sensing and Cyber
  • Human-Machine Interfaces
  • Space Technology



OBJECTIVE: Develop solutions for high priority operational and strategic challenges in the areas of Autonomous Systems, Machine Learning, Cyber, Cross-Domain Kill Chains, Enhanced surveillance and reconnaissance and Non-traditional Defense Technologies.



The Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) is a rapid prototyping organization focused on delivering capabilities in 3-5 years to address high priority operational and strategic challenges for the Department of Defense (DoD). SCO is seeking innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in the following technology areas:


1. Autonomous Systems:  The use of autonomous systems in military operations provides several advantages, including allowing soldiers to avoid performing overly tedious or hazardous tasks and improved decision making for time-critical operations. The SCO is interested in technologies that can help accelerate and expand the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) use of autonomous systems as well as concepts for deterring or defeating an adversary’s attempts to do the same.  Recognizing the rapid advance of commercial autonomy applications, SCO particularly encourages concepts that leverage commercial investments in autonomy technologies.   Sub-categories of interest under Autonomous Systems include, but are not limited to, the following:


•           Improved Human/Autonomous System Interaction and Collaboration (HASIC) solutions for ground, sea, and air vehicles

•           Manned/unmanned Army ground vehicle collaboration that reduces risk to mission or risk to force

•           Manned/unmanned tactical aircraft collaboration that improves targeting or weapon magazine depth for 5th generation aircraft

•           Low cost/medium range (200nm)/medium endurance organic tactical ISR for Army fire and maneuver elements to include artillery units and MLRS forces. 

•           Communication systems, robotics, and algorithms for swarming, cooperative object interception, high speed and high precision optical navigation, and obstacle avoidance

•           Low-cost robotic systems, sensors, and compute


2. Machine Learning (ML):  The ability to analyze large datasets quickly using deep learning algorithms could potentially provide significant military capabilities in the areas of indications and warnings (I&W) and automatic target recognition (ATR). Recent advances in computer vision, natural language processing, and neural networks, as well as the availability of massive amounts of computational power have made the prospect of fielding military systems that leverage deep learning in the near term a real possibility.  Additionally advances in reinforcement learning (RL) and generative AI also hold to promise of changing the way tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) are developed, data is summarized and acted upon, and the way control systems, cooperative effects delivery, and the ways software and physical systems are designed. SCO is interested in innovative concepts that benefit the warfighter by leveraging machine learning approaches.  Sub-categories of interest under Machine Learning include, but are not limited to, the following:


•           Deep learning enabled by graphics processing unit (GPU) computing

•           Approaches that use synthetic data to train neural networks

•           Semantic processing

•           ML applications for advanced modelling and simulation of militarily relevant problems

•           RL/GAN generated physical systems, software, and control systems

•           RL/GAN developed TTPs for swarming systems, concepts of operation (CONOPS), and software defined radios (SDRs)

•           Large Language Model (LLM) applications


3. Cyber:  As U.S. adversaries have invested heavily in developing offensive cyber capabilities, the Department of Defense (DoD) has implemented a cyber-defense strategy designed to deter adversaries by ensuring that the military can detect, respond and remain resilient under cyber-attack.  SCO is interested in leveraging advanced cyber related technologies that will enable the U.S. military to stay ahead of the evolving cyber threat.  Sub-categories of interest under Cyber include, but are not limited to, the following:


•           Network protection tools that provide ways to identify network vulnerabilities and provide automated operational security capabilities

•           Novel cyber-defensive techniques that leverage commercial advances in anomaly-based detection, data analytics and/or encryption methods


4. Cross-Domain Kill Chains:  Finding new ways to connect sensors with weapons to complete kill chains across the air, surface, and undersea domains is critical to countering near peer adversaries.  The ability to link any capable sensor with any weapon transforms the concept of a “kill chain”, where any individual link is a single point of failure, to that of a “kill web”, where it will be difficult for an adversary to prevent a successful engagement.  SCO is interested in exploring alternative combinations of existing or near-term sensors, communications, and weapons.  Sub-categories of interest under Cross-Domain Kill Chains include, but are not limited to, the following:


•           Cross-domain fires/distributed lethality concepts

•           Providing existing weapons with new capabilities (e.g., giving defensive weapons offensive capabilities, and vice versa)

•           Low probability of intercept, low probability of detection (LPI/LPD) communication waveforms and architectures for air, land, or sea platforms

•           Machine-to-machine network tools that allow for seamless translation across multiple data formats and waveforms


5. Enhanced Surveillance and Reconnaissance:  Discover novel ways to detect, identify, locate, and characterize a range of signatures-of-interest to the DoD using novel and unconventional platforms. New platforms, and enhancements to existing platforms, are desired in all domains:  subsea, surface, terrestrial, air, space, and cyber. Compute “at the edge”, when possible, is preferred as it reduces “back-end” communication demands and may enable expeditionary employment. Leveraging existing or emerging commercial technology, applied to this mission area, often accelerates prototyping through shortcutting traditional R&D timelines. Sub-categories of interest under Enhanced Surveillance and Reconnaissance include, but are not limited to, the following:


  • Collection of radio frequency signals of interest
  • Leverage the “Internet of Things” (IoT) to network dispersed, heterogenous sensors, and also detect targeted signatures via existing IoT appliances and devices.
  • Adaptability and tailor-ability in form factor enables deployment diversity


6. Non-traditional defense technologies:  This category is intended to allow proposers to submit technology concepts that, while not originally developed for defense/military purposes, might be repurposed to create or enhance military capabilities.  The development for many non-traditional DoD technologies is largely driven by a fast-paced and rapidly evolving commercial market.  Therefore, leveraging commercial innovation is a key element of DoD’s strategy for ensuring emerging needs for technology innovation are met.  Proposers wishing to submit a concept under this primary category are encouraged to consider a wide range of enhanced or new DoD relevant capabilities enabled by repurposing technologies that are not primarily used in defense applications.  Examples of concepts that would be appropriate under this category include, but are not limited to, the following:


  • Using high speed computing enabled by graphics processing units (GPUs) to increase the capabilities of DoD sensor systems
  • Leveraging advances in driverless vehicle technology to enable DoD unmanned ground vehicles
  • Applying big data analytics developed for business intelligence to DoD decision making tools
  • Repurposing cybersecurity tools built to protect the Internet of Things (IoT) to defend DoD networks


Proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, devices, or systems.  Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice. 


PHASE I: Phase I feasibility will describe the existing proposed technology, existing DoD system(s) to improve, modifications required, anticipated improvements to existing capabilities, impacts to current logistics if any (i.e., transportation, storage, maintenance, safety, etc.) and transition approach. Results of Phase I will be detailed in a final technical report (Final Report). Phase I deliverables include: - Kick-Off Briefing, due 15 days from start of Base award - Final Report, due 120 days from start of Base award - Initial Phase II Proposal, due 120 days from start of Base award.


PHASE II: The scope of the Phase II effort will be specific to each project but is generally expected to develop a functional prototype to demonstrate the capability, develop transition plan including production and fielding approach (including updated logistics and safety consideration) and further commercialization.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The technologies developed could be used in a broad range of military and commercial applications.







KEYWORDS:  Cybersecurity; Cross-Domain Kill Chains; machine learning; AI; Autonomous Systems; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems (including manned and unmanned airborne, space-borne, maritime, and terrestrial systems)


US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government