Kudos to the Navy for implementing the TechSolutions program. But we respectfully submit that his model will work much better when problems are submitted from the field and the entire tech base (not just those with access to the Navy Marine Corps Internet) is enlisted to help in the development of solutions. Creating the right solution for the right job means knowing the problem and understanding the art of the possible. The trick is to create opportunities to broadly expose technologists to insights from the field.
DARPA’s attempts to crowd source wicked defense problems are admirable but clumsy. What are the odds that groups of poorly funded enthusiasts working more or less independently of one another will be able to wholly solve some of the most pressing technical challenges facing the military? It’s more likely that such a model will produce flashes of insight that can contribute to a comprehensive solution. The question that DARPA should be focused on is – how do you recognize and integrate these independently formed insights into a fully formed technology?
This editorial poses some good, common sense questions about the inefficiencies in the current DoD acquisition mindset. Cost-sharing across the military Services (and other government agencies) in a manner consistent with the NATO Smart Defense philosophy would demand that the institutional (read bureaucratic) barriers between the various Services and agencies be broken down. Ultimately, it’s the narrow-minded interests in the Pentagon, Congress, etc. that impose local (vice global) infrastructure solutions, creating the redundancies that threaten the long-term economic viability of the entire U.S. national security enterprise.
DARPA was on the right track with its UAVForge initiative – cast a wide net for innovations to solve military problems. But it’s not clear that such a model can, in fact, produce viable solutions for the military market absent the appropriate infrastructure and resources. If DoD really wants to harness the expertise of enthusiasts, it should consider investing in a DIY infrastructure base to enable these technologists.
Why isn’t there an In-Q-Tel (IQT) for the Department of Defense? For those of you who don’t know, IQT is a non-profit venture fund that is underwritten in part by the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). The idea is to seed promising technologies that have application to needs in the IC as well as commercial market potential.
The biggest innovation to come out of IQT doesn’t have anything to do with technology – it’s the business model itself. The idea of the super secretive IC outsourcing technology discovery and incubation to the quasi private sector is as revolutionary as it is obvious. IQT harnesses capitalism to harvest the best technology innovations for the IC. Brilliant!
Why then isn’t there an analog of IQT in the DoD? Rather than entrusting private enterprise to drive the innovation engine, DoD has rather clumsily attempted to insert itself in the venture ecosystem through initiatives like DeVenCi, which seek to align DoD and commercial market needs without making any real investments.
DoD should take a page from the IC playbook and leave the venture game to private enterprise. Everyone will come out ahead.
If all goes according to plan, the U.S. military will soon have its own analog of Reddit, the popular social site where user votes push the best content and ideas to the top for all to see.
This is a great idea – in theory. The problem is that the envisioned site, dubbed Eureka, is open only to military and civilian employees of the DoD. The best ideas often come from the healthy co-mingling of perspectives that can only emerge from an open ecosystem. If everyone in the Eureka community is two or three degrees removed, there’s little chance that truly disruptive ideas will be spawned.
Here’s another interesting question: how can the proliferation of social media and smart devices elevate the needs of edgefighters to prominence in the Pentagon?
This is a brilliant missive that speaks to the heart of Smart Defense.
This is a very interesting article. We see a number of parallels between the technological health of nations and that of industries. How do think defense would fare in a side-by-side comparison with other industries?
Following are some interesting excerpts:
Science fiction author William Gibson’s famous quip that the future is already here but unevenly distributed is the quintessential encapsulation of the fact that we differ in our stages of Technik.
However, the U.S. share of global R&D, like global GDP, has fallen to around 20%, and since not enough of those funds are devoted to commercialization initiatives, the United States sometimes has to buy things it invented a decade ago from competitors abroad.
This phenomena should sound familiar to defense insiders… How many promising technologies spawned from the previous decade of conflict have actually traversed the gap to formal DoD program of record? How long did it take DoD to internalize Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) first successfully demonstrated in Vietnam into the permanent force structure?
Innovation without productization, commercialization, and transition is just an interesting aside. Unfortunately, we can count on having to reinvent many of the same military technologies that so impacted the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq down the road.
Interesting article that underscores the broader trend of the commercial origins of modern mil tech.