DoD Needs to Invest More in Innovation

An old Navy way of saying something is a dumb idea is to say, “that makes as much sense as a screen door on a submarine.” While the Navy is smart enough not to use them on submarines, the way that DoD runs its acquisitions makes about as much sense as putting a screen door on a submarine. And, it’s costing us in the taxpayer’s wallet and the country in national security. We prepare for the last war while our adversaries plan for the next conflict.

Numerous commissions, studies and papers continue to point to the stifling effects of the DoD procurement system on production, efficiency, and innovation as well as lead to bloated price tags like the F-35. The cost of one F-35 is now “only” $78 million, the next five years of development will be billion, and the lifetime cost of the program is $1.73 trillion. That is just one (albeit expensive) weapon system. That is a lot of money for a system that has not been actively in regular national security headlines or conversation (except to debate its controversial efficacy). With drones, autonomous weapons, artificial intelligence and other innovations on the battlefield, what will be its comparative value in the next conflict? 

Our adversaries have three advantages over us: 

  1. They’ve already stolen what works. The most effective way to do research is to not have to do it at all and go straight to an advanced final product. China ensures that it keeps up with the United States in the technological race, and saves billions of dollars, by stealing the results of our expensive R&D efforts.

    According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, U.S. companies have suffered “one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history.” China’s economic power strategy also includes the Belt and Road initiative – where they invest in infrastructure in developing countries. But they are doing the same thing here, as well, as China directs equity investment in cutting-edge U.S. technology start-ups.

  2. With U.S. power as the relative benchmark, Russia and China are choosing how to contest us. “[W]e should expect China and Russia to come after us with irregular-war strategies....”

    This means breadth and innovation are key for our defenses since what has worked for us before is exactly what they are going to avoid.

  3. They do not have to follow the Federal Acquisition Regulation or deal with a dizzying array of rules, regulations, policies and statutes that stifle innovation. As Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services recently stated, “in my view, where we need to make the Pentagon more effective: [...] our acquisition and procurement process over the last 20 years can only be described as a complete disaster.”

The cost of doing business continues to increase. Raw materials and key elements of the supply chain are still beholden to Chinese control and influence. The Defense industrial base is simultaneously dependent on China and subject to espionage. Increased requirements for cybersecurity are necessary, but they come with a price to implement. It is a worthwhile investment that shouldn’t require companies to race to the bottom on margins to win contracts, but lack the money to implement necessary defenses.

DoD has been taking innovation more seriously with investments in the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and other programs, but has still been strategically reactive. Its approach to artificial intelligence was a response to Chinese coordinated investment and Russian President Vladimir Putin declaration that whichever country becomes the leader in artificial intelligence (AI) “will become the ruler of the world.” Can you imagine if the United States had a holistic, whole of government approach to a field of innovation? We haven’t seen that since the middle of the previous century.

In 2021, you can’t mention innovation without reflexively conjuring up Silicon Valley. And there are some good elements there to emulate for software development, it actually lags the national defense and security capabilities that already exist elsewhere in private industry. In its Five Year Plan, China plans to increase  R&D investment by 7% per year and domestically produce 70% of its core manufacturing components by 2025.

“America must reinvest in retaining our scientific and technological edge and once again lead,” said the Biden Administration. And, it begins with government procurement reform coupled with investment in domestic capabilities and innovation. This way we can replace the screen doors on the acquisition system.

About the Author

Bryson Bort is the CEO of SCYTHE.

Featured

  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    The Importance of Proactive Security Measures: 4 Stories of Regret

    We all want to believe that crime won’t happen to us. So, some business owners hope for the best and put proactive security measures on the back burner, because other things like growth, attracting new customers, and meeting deadlines all seem more pressing. Read Now

  • 91 Percent of Security Leaders Believe AI Set to Outpace Security Teams

    Bugcrowd recently released its “Inside the Mind of a CISO” report, which surveyed hundreds of security leaders around the globe to uncover their perception on AI threats, their top priorities and evolving roles, and common myths directed towards the CISO. Among the findings, 1 in 3 respondents (33%) believed that at least half of companies are willing to sacrifice their customers’ long-term privacy or security to save money. Read Now

  • Milestone Announces Merger With Arcules

    Global video technology company Milestone Systems is pleased to announce that effective July 1, 2024, it will merge with the cloud-based video surveillance solutions provider, Arcules. Read Now

  • Organizations Struggle with Outdated Security Approaches, While Online Threats Increase

    Cloudflare Inc, recently published its State of Application Security 2024 Report. Findings from this year's report reveal that security teams are struggling to keep pace with the risks posed by organizations’ dependency on modern applications—the technology that underpins all of today’s most used sites. The report underscores that the volume of threats stemming from issues in the software supply chain, increasing number of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and malicious bots, often exceed the resources of dedicated application security teams. Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

Webinars

New Products

  • PE80 Series

    PE80 Series by SARGENT / ED4000/PED5000 Series by Corbin Russwin

    ASSA ABLOY, a global leader in access solutions, has announced the launch of two next generation exit devices from long-standing leaders in the premium exit device market: the PE80 Series by SARGENT and the PED4000/PED5000 Series by Corbin Russwin. These new exit devices boast industry-first features that are specifically designed to provide enhanced safety, security and convenience, setting new standards for exit solutions. The SARGENT PE80 and Corbin Russwin PED4000/PED5000 Series exit devices are engineered to meet the ever-evolving needs of modern buildings. Featuring the high strength, security and durability that ASSA ABLOY is known for, the new exit devices deliver several innovative, industry-first features in addition to elegant design finishes for every opening. 3

  • ResponderLink

    ResponderLink

    Shooter Detection Systems (SDS), an Alarm.com company and a global leader in gunshot detection solutions, has introduced ResponderLink, a groundbreaking new 911 notification service for gunshot events. ResponderLink completes the circle from detection to 911 notification to first responder awareness, giving law enforcement enhanced situational intelligence they urgently need to save lives. Integrating SDS’s proven gunshot detection system with Noonlight’s SendPolice platform, ResponderLink is the first solution to automatically deliver real-time gunshot detection data to 911 call centers and first responders. When shots are detected, the 911 dispatching center, also known as the Public Safety Answering Point or PSAP, is contacted based on the gunfire location, enabling faster initiation of life-saving emergency protocols. 3

  • Luma x20

    Luma x20

    Snap One has announced its popular Luma x20 family of surveillance products now offers even greater security and privacy for home and business owners across the globe by giving them full control over integrators’ system access to view live and recorded video. According to Snap One Product Manager Derek Webb, the new “customer handoff” feature provides enhanced user control after initial installation, allowing the owners to have total privacy while also making it easy to reinstate integrator access when maintenance or assistance is required. This new feature is now available to all Luma x20 users globally. “The Luma x20 family of surveillance solutions provides excellent image and audio capture, and with the new customer handoff feature, it now offers absolute privacy for camera feeds and recordings,” Webb said. “With notifications and integrator access controlled through the powerful OvrC remote system management platform, it’s easy for integrators to give their clients full control of their footage and then to get temporary access from the client for any troubleshooting needs.” 3