News | Dec. 1, 2003

Commercial Information Technology Possibilities: Perspectives on its Future Role in Military Operations as Inspired by Visits to Selected Sites

By Desmond Saunders-Newton

By Desmond Saunders-Newton

There has been a substantial amount of discussion in the DOD community about the availability of commercially funded R&D products capable of supporting ongoing and anticipated military operations. Those who doubt the availability of such technological products point to the past necessity of military R&D investment to assure American technological superiority. Pundits who hold that commercial investments are currently producing products relevant to military operations point to the incredible growth of various consumer markets, e.g. electronics, telecommunications and personal computers. This report describes the efforts of the Center for Technology and National Security Policy (CTNSP) to assess the availability of Information Technology to support current and future military operations. In short, we wanted to consider whether there exist technological winners—or keepers—derived from research and development (R&D) investments initiated and sustained by private-sector firms. Based on the case studies derived from this study’s purposive sample, we believe strongly that currently available technological products can easily be adopted by users and institutions within DOD. Moreover, we assert that these technologies will be able to support future operations effectively.

In support of these assertions, this report describes a number of information technology R&D efforts initiated and funded by private-sector firms. While these products do not arise from DOD investments, they, as well as variants of the underlying technology, are capable of supporting future military operational concepts and addressing anticipated national security challenges. Included in this report are detailed case studies of relevant firms and the results of their R&D efforts, as well as reflections on the process of identifying relevant technologies in the commercial sector.