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Report to Congress on Global R&D Implications for the Pentagon

The following is the Nov. 8, 2018 Congressional Research Service report The Global Research and Development Landscape and Implications for the Department of Defense.

From the report:

For more than 70 years, the technological superiority of the United States military has offset the size and geographic advantages of potential adversaries. The Department of Defense (DOD), due in large part to the magnitude of its investments in research and development (R&D), has driven the global R&D and technology landscape. However, DOD and the federal government more broadly are no longer overriding funders of R&D, and this shift in support for R&D has substantial implications for how DOD obtains advanced technology and maintains the battlefield overmatch that technology has historically provided.

In 1960, the United States accounted for 69% of global R&D, with U.S. defense-related R&D alone accounting for more than one-third of global R&D (36%). Additionally, the federal government funded approximately twice as much R&D as U.S. business. However, from 1960 to 2016, the U.S. share of global R&D fell to 28%, and the federal government’s share of total U.S. R&D fell from 65% to 24%, while business’s share more than doubled from 33% to 67%. As a result of these global, national, and federal trends, federal defense R&D’s share of total global R&D fell to 3.7% in 2016. This decline resulted primarily from more rapid increases in the R&D of other nations (public and private) and partially from increases in U.S. business R&D and federal nondefense R&D.

Some defense experts and policymakers have recognized the shift in the global R&D landscape and the need for DOD to rely increasingly on technologies developed by commercial companies for commercial markets. Among the challenges DOD faces in acquiring new, innovative technologies and maintaining U.S. military technical superiority are

  • developing/modifying organizations and business models to access this technology;
  • adapting the DOD business culture to seek and embrace technologies developed outside of DOD, the United States, and its traditional contractor base; and
  • finding ways to adapt and leverage commercial technologies for defense applications.

Congress plays a central role in how DOD creates and acquires leading-edge technologies, including establishing and refining the organizational structure of DOD R&D activities, providing policy direction, establishing acquisition policies and authorities, and appropriating funds for R&D and innovation-related activities. Congress and the Administration have undertaken a number of actions to address the perceived decline in technical superiority, including

  • establishing the position of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering to coordinate DOD’s research enterprise, drive the development of key technologies, and create a more agile and innovative department;
  • increasing DOD collaboration and engagement with industry and academia. For example, DOD has increased its presence in U.S. commercial technology hubs through the Defense Innovation Unit, established partnership intermediary agreements with various organizations, and co-located DOD research and development personnel at partner institutions across the country; and
  • working to alter the culture of DOD to increase the speed technologies are developed, adapted, and acquired, including through the use of other transaction authority.

As DOD implements these reform efforts congressional oversight may include monitoring how effectively DOD is addressing congressional directives and intent to create a more risk tolerant and innovative DOD.

  • Leatherstocking

    For the last 20+ years, independent of Administration, the State Department has misused ITAR regulations to prevent US companies from competing in “friendly” international markets. Many tenders (RFPs) specifically exclude ITAR (meaning US controlled) content because of the prior US Government abuses. So US defense companies can only bid US jobs while European and Far East competitors can address the full market and invest R&D from those profits. US defense business has been a yo-yo with capricious spending and sequestration. 20% (17,000) firms have disappeared from the US defense business. Yes, some is consolidation driven by sequestration and low margins but many firms have just left the market.
    The emperor has no clothes and is quickly losing his viable military strength.

    • vetww2

      Good grief, another analytcal, observant mind has pre-empted my comment. I will blame my lethargy on my 91 years, but I strongly endorse Leatherstocking’s post.

      • Leatherstocking

        Sorry for getting in there early. Happy Thanksgiving….

        • vetww2

          Keep up the analytical, apolitical comments.

    • SpikeTheworld

      Very well said sir.

      Ouch cut it out, Ouch cut it out, Ouch cut it out.

    • Graeme Pocknee

      I have led two research tours of Australia this year by engineering fellows from a US Defence company. Research is available from US partners countries. ITAR prevents much of this non-US based (but US aligned) research being considered by the US. I would like to see the US characterise research as DoD critical/ US critical/ US aligned/ and open source. This would permit the US Defence, US industry and US academia to know what is considered of strategic importance and what can be pursued from US aligned countries.

      • vetww2

        Right on. You may remember the advanced ship ABCA technical pact, of which I was a member, together with Admiral Snow of the Australian Navy. A very successful operation.

    • vetww2

      Well said.
      In many cases, the State Dept. should register as a foreign agent. CASES IN POINT:
      1. There was NO reason to fight the warlords of Mogadishu. The humanitarian mission we had, could have been accomplisshed with the OFFERED help of Russia, turned down by State.
      2. Persistent siding of State with the “Palestinians” (no such country ever existed. It was made up by the arab nations) has exacerbated the problems of the middle east.
      3. The constant drumbeat against Russia since the demise of the USSR, has kept us from lowering the tension betwen our two countries.

      • Leatherstocking

        In one case I had, sensors were sold and mounted on a friendly nation’s satellite which were approved by State. Approval was then withdrawn because the friendly nation had to launch from India (we all know about booster availability in the US). Even though the satellite had 24 hour guards, State required the friendly country to pull the sensors. State told me it was because India was not playing ball with the US on some space issues. It had NOTHING to do with ITAR. I haven’t been able to sell that product line outside the US since then (word gets around).

    • Disabled Veteran

      Clean up our own backyard full of terrorists judges and lawyer’s and terrorists organizations