September 27, 2021

CNAS Launches New Project: Unfinished Business in Defense Innovation

Washington, September 27, 2021—For nearly a decade, the Department of Defense (DoD) has tried to stimulate innovation by adopting technologies that are created outside of the traditional defense sector. While these initiatives have made notable progress in prototyping new capabilities, the DoD has yet to field many of these technologies at speed and scale. Far too many of the prototypes have perished in the “valley of death” between development and production.

“Unfinished Business in Defense Innovation,” a new initiative launched today by the Center for a New American Security, will identify the obstacles preventing the DoD from innovation and retaining a military-technical edge, and prescribe solutions for how the Department can better develop and field advanced capabilities in the future.

“Despite recent reforms, such as the adaptive acquisition framework, defense acquisition processes remain too slow, inflexible, and the innovation ecosystem remains on the periphery of the larger acquisition enterprise,” noted CNAS Defense Program Director Stacie Pettyjohn.

The initiative will bring together key stakeholders through a series of private workshops to examine how new acquisition pathways and expanded acquisition authorities have been used and what can be done to improve outcomes. The project will also offer actionable recommendations for how the Department can overcome persistent challenges and mainstream defense innovation through a series of reports and commentaries over the next year.

“The American military needs to maintain its military-technological advantage in this renewed era of great power competition,” said Paul Scharre, CNAS Vice President and Director of Studies. “This initiative will identify concrete and pragmatic recommendations for how to do that.”

For more information on the “Unfinished Business” project or on the work of CNAS’ Defense program, please visit or contact


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