Pentagon’s Dr. Will Roper Heads Strategic Capabilities Office
60 Minutes talks to the right man about battlefield drones as correspondent David Martin explores the future of automated warfare. Martin talks to Dr. Will Roper. Roper has headed up the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), where the US develops many of its most innovative technologies — from big data and weaponized computer viruses to flying drones. The Pentagon will soon begin deploying scores of drones, called Pendix, which can “make decisions on their own faster than humans can think.” The drone squads — or the swarms of Pendix — will be used as anti-terrorist tools and for loads of other operations.
Dr. Roper splits his time between vetting new tech and upgrading the old. He told Breaking Defense in July that with “over a trillion dollars” worth of sunk costs in the systems we have bought and operated,” the Defense Department must “instead of looking forward to the future technologies that are coming out of the research shops… look backwards to the systems that we currently have.” That will allow the current systems to maintain our safety while new ones like the Pendix are perfected. That said, Roper said “the typical time from initiation to completion [for an SCO project] is three years.” That’s really fast by Pentagon standards. Roper’s SCO works on something more like Silicon Valley time. Roper, a Rhodes Scholar, holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Oxford University and a Master’s in Physics from Georgia Tech.