May 24, 2019 / 11:03 AM / 3 months ago

REFILE-Pentagon eyes expanding DARPA future warfare research office

(In 2nd paragraph, changes "Applied" to "Advanced" in DARPA full name)

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON, May 24 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Defense is close to expanding its legendary future warfare and technology agency DARPA by combining it with the Pentagon office in charge of adapting existing weapons to new uses, people familiar with the plans said.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency would absorb the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) and centralize more research units under the Pentagon's Chief Technology Officer Michael Griffin.

The combination would end an experiment with SCO that began as an attempt to adapt to future threats quickly and with less bureaucracy. SCO reported directly to the defense secretary, removing it from traditional bureaucratic channels at the Pentagon.

If all of SCO's $1.3 billion 2020 budget request were transferred to DARPA, DARPA would gain control over 37 percent more funding on top of its 2020 funding request of $3.5 billion.

The SCO is charged with developing unexpected and game-changing capabilities to counter emerging threats.

The SCO has looked into projects like swarming small drones and transforming the Raytheon Co-made Standard Missile 6, a defensive weapon, into an offensive weapon.

Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, initiatives including hypersonic weapons, lasers and space-based projects.

Last year, Congress asked the Pentagon to explore how it could shut down the SCO or transfer its functions to another entity.

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee rolled out its proposals for a $750 billion 2020 defense budget. (Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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