By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work on Wednesday urged NATO allies to develop and make more innovative weapons, and said bold action was needed to stay ahead of rapid weapons development by China, Russia and other countries.
Work said the Pentagon has a new plan called "Defense Innovation Initiative" and a separate effort targeting longer-term projects to ensure that the United States continues to have a decisive competitive advantage against potential foes.
"We must coordinate and collaborate, avoid duplication, leverage niche capabilities, and push our establishments to innovate in technology, concepts, experimentation, and wargaming," Work said at a conference hosted by the Center for a New American Security. He underscored the need for NATO members to make good their promise at a September meeting last year to spend two percent of national output on defense.
Work said it was critical to increase collaboration with allies in NATO, Asia and other areas, ranging from mission planning to investments in new weapons programs.
Concerns about weapons development from other countries was a key reason that the Pentagon's fiscal 2016 budget plan to be delivered to Congress on Monday will exceed the budget caps set by Congress and reverse five years of declines in U.S. military spending.
Work gave no details ahead of the official release, but said the budget would include "significant" investments in nuclear weapons, space control capabilities, advanced sensors, missile defense and cyber, as well as unmanned undersea vehicles, sea mining, high-speed strike weapons, an advanced jet engine, high energy lasers and rail gun technology.
Work said the plans need to address different threats in different regions, and should leverage work by commercial firms on robotics, autonomous operations and other key technologies.
Lockheed Martin Corp <LMT.N>, Boeing Co <BA.N>, and other key weapons makers have repeatedly urged the Pentagon to step up investments in key technologies.
Pentagon arms buyer Frank Kendall told the House Armed Services Committee in a separate hearing that he was deeply concerned about heavy investments by China, Russia and others in weapons designed to target critical U.S. military capabilities such as aircraft carriers and satellites.
"I am very concerned about the increasing risk of loss of U.S. military technological superiority," he said. "We're at risk and the situation is getting worse."
Kendall said the department would also earmark funds for development and prototyping of a new "next-generation X-plane" that would eventually succeed the F-35 fighter jet, and a new engine.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Bernard Orr)