January 17, 2017

Why the United States Is Losing Its Technological Edge

By Ben FitzGerald

Earlier this month, President-elect Donald Trump drew headlines for his criticism of two major defense programs, the Air Force One replacement and the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35). Mr. Trump is right to worry about high prices and schedule delays, issues that frequently harm defense procurement. But his concerns should run deeper. The United States military is losing its longstanding technological advantage, despite spending billions on projects like those troubling the president-elect.

The DoD’s problems can be rectified, but not by banning civilian or military personnel from ever working in defense industry, as considered by Mr. Trump. Instead, the Department of Defense needs to completely overhaul its approach to technology strategy, injecting free market principles to keep pace with technological change and outcompete increasingly capable adversaries.

The DoD develops some of the world’s most sophisticated technology, but its fundamental approach to doing so remains optimized for a bygone era. It assumes a clear, singular threat from which to develop rigid requirements. These requirements form the basis for contracts for which only a small number of defense specialist contractors can compete. And the costs of these projects are so high that the resulting weapons systems must remain in service for many decades, despite the rapid pace of technological change and world events.

Read the full article at The National Interest.

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