In the good old days of the Cold War (well, old days at least) the Pentagon was a key driver of technological innovation, and its dominance was reflected in the structure of R&D and procurement programs. But the old bureaucracy is woefully unsuited to dealing with the technological landscape of the 21st century, when private firms are the source of most innovation and technology is shared across borders as well as straddling civilian and defense applications, argues Mackenzie Eaglen of AEI in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.
- According to Eaglen the Pentagon “has doubled down on unreasonable demands to own intellectual property in perpetuity, a nonstarter for many software companies with which it contracts.”
- With technology systems and platforms now more important than equipment, the Pentagon risks falling even further behind. One example is the F-22 fighter, whose software “was out of date by the time the first plane was airborne.”
- Meanwhile China and Russia are excelling in new weapons technologies including “directed energy, hypersonics and cyber and information operations” (above, a Russian MiG-31 with a hypersonic missile). The list also includes Chinese military satellites using quantum computing, which supposedly makes them “unhackable.”
- How can America get its edge back? In addition to the bureaucratic reforms suggested above, Eaglen calls on the Pentagon to bring more development in-house and take a “software first” approach to avoid premature obsolescence.
- Eaglen also argues that the Pentagon “must also improve its R&D planning process to translate basic research into action sooner, before the systems have become irrelevant or overmatched.”
- The full op-ed, with detailed recommendations, is available here.