Defense Technological Innovation: Issues and Challenges in an Era of Converging Technologies*

Bharat Rao, Adam Jay Harrison & Bala Mulloth

[Under Contract. Edward Elgar Publishing]


With the rapid advancement of 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and advanced manufacturing technologies, the US defense establishment is facing challenges to its traditional innovation paradigm on several fronts. Unlike in the past, the private sector and the venture economy are dictating the shape and pace of technological change, which means that the US Department of Defense needs to find ways to rapidly absorb these external changes, and convert them into internal solutions that help its warfighting and peacetime missions. In addition, near-peer adversaries are investing heavily in such technologies and rapidly gaining ground at the leading edge.

The purpose of this book is to take a closer look at the issue of innovation as it is conceptualized, institutionalized and practiced in The US Department of Defense and the wider ecosystem around it, at this interesting cusp of change. We examine the attitudes, perceptions and behaviors towards innovation in the DoD; interactions of the DoD with internal and external stakeholders as it seeks to embrace innovation; and its approach to defining and building innovation competencies associated with human capital development, organization, and business practices. We examine how the DoD has evolved in its use of internal and external R&D and commercialization, and also developed initiatives to create, scale and deploy innovative solutions to assist in its missions. During our multi-year study, we interviewed key decision makers within and outside the DoD as well as several leading thinkers and policy analysts who deal with the issue of innovation in national security and related spheres on a daily basis. We studied organizations like DARPA, DIUx, US Army Reserves 75th Innovation Command, and Hacking for Defense, among others.

Our expectation is that, by the end of this book, the reader will arrive at a better understanding and appreciation of the complex, dynamic, multifaceted, interdisciplinary and human-centered implications of innovation in the DoD. We seek to develop and provide tools and recommendations based on our research to guide policy makers and practitioners involved in creating and shaping the defense innovation ecosystem of the future.

*This project was initiated during a Research Fellowship at the National Defense University, at Fort McNair, Washington D.C. The research is being continued through an affiliation with the Army Futures Command in Austin, TX.