The Client

In 2015, a new unmanned systems organization was established within a U.S. defense agency to streamline investments and drive a deliberate and thoughtful strategy for unmanned systems technology development.

The Challenge

As adversarial state and non-state actors become more technologically sophisticated and more capable of conducting combined operations, defense officials recognized that it was critical to field unmanned and autonomous systems quickly and integrate them effectively. Over the past decade, government and industry have developed many new technologies for unmanned and autonomous systems to respond to asymmetric threats. Without a sound strategy in place, however, the department risked missing opportunities to capitalize on those technological advancements in support of the warfighter. To address this challenge, agency leaders sought Herren Associates’ expertise to facilitate strategy sessions, lead a series of workshops, and guide the development of a comprehensive roadmap.

The Solution

To improve the agency’s ability to translate the strategy into action, the Herren team began by hosting planning sessions where agency leaders and subject matter experts met to discuss and define the future vision of unmanned and autonomous systems. Working closely with the client, the Herren team then facilitated a series of invitation-only workshops with subject matter experts across the unmanned and autonomous systems community. During these workshops, participants examined the deployment and operation of unmanned systems across the full range of military operations in an effective and efficient structure. Participants developed recommendations aligned with the unmanned systems organization’s key objectives, ranging from technology development challenges, to policy implementation complexities, to the cultural adoption of unmanned systems integration. Throughout the workshop process, Herren helped agency leaders identify key barriers to realizing their future vision for unmanned and autonomous systems and devise executable solutions to address those barriers.

Building on the workshops’ concepts, Herren assessed how to best translate the unmanned systems vision and its associated barriers. The team recommended next steps for tackling the barriers and outlined an actionable roadmap through 2030. The team then developed a strategy describing the steps the agency needed to take to achieve its desired outcomes and goals that clearly identified links among various priorities for action in the near, medium, and long term. Drawing on Herren’s extensive technology development experience, the team provided the agency with the context, information, and tools they needed to design, manage, and implement an effective roadmap specific to unmanned and autonomous systems

The Result

Within one year, the new unmanned systems organization used the dynamic set of technical, policy, legal, and organizational considerations the Herren team identified to finalize a comprehensive roadmap that will guide procurement decisions and establish organizational priorities in the future. These initiatives will help the organization refine and accelerate its technology development lifecycle, optimize investments across the agency, and meet urgent operational needs. As the technology matures and experimentation continues, the agency expects unmanned and autonomous systems to become broadly viable for an increasing range of military operations. With Herren’s guidance, the organization is more prepared to take full advantage of the technology’s potential.

Public-sector executives need expert partners who bring complexity into focus with actionable insights – and deliver maximum value. Herren has been helping leaders make better decisions since 1989. We optimize investments, manage transformational change, and shake up the status quo in our determination to maximize the value of every dollar spent. Our value-driven approach is built on everyday collaboration with clients and business partners. We work side by side with leaders and make their mission, our mission. To learn more about Herren Associates, please visit us at


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