Pentagon, defense contractors out of step on technology research and innovation, says government watchdog

Sept. 16, 2020
While contractors are spending some of their money on big ambitious goals, they prefer to spend more on low-hanging fruit in little improvements.

WASHINGTON – Two years after the Pentagon set out to spend billions on 10 breakthrough research and engineering efforts, defense contractors instead are putting most of their money in less ambitious research projects. Defense One reports. Continue reading original article

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

16 Sept. 2020 -- The development gap between the military and its suppliers troubled investigators at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Washington, whose investigators determined that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) isn’t keeping good watch over those private efforts and doesn’t know how much of it would fit into the military’s tech goals.

The U.S. defense undersecretary for research and engineering in 2018 laid out several big idea research areas that would be most relevant to maintaining an edge on China or Russia. Many are in the very early stages of maturation; the biggest breakthroughs are expected in the second half of the coming decade.

But GAO found that defense contractors in the past four years have been putting only 40 percent of their independent research dollars, sometimes called IR&D, against those priorities. Coincidently, “our analysis also showed that the majority (67 percent) of IR&D projects completed between 2014 and 2018 focused on incremental, rather than disruptive, innovation.”

Related: Money can’t buy innovation: R&D’s big spenders don’t convert spending to profit

Related: Pentagon seeks $104.29 billion military research budget for 2020 -- an increase of 8.7 percent

Related: Top enabling technologies for the warfighter in the 2020s

John Keller, chief editor
Military & Aerospace Electronics

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