Using Venture Capital to Improve Army Research and Development

by Bruce Held, Ike Chang

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The U.S. Army is having difficulty balancing its need for new technologies with the resources available to develop them. Since it is unlikely that the Army will devote substantially greater resources to its research and development (R&D), the Army must find better methods for developing the technologies needed to stage its revolution in military affairs (RMA) while keeping current equipment relevant and affordable. This issue paper introduces the idea that the Army should fund some of its technology development through a private venture capital organization. The concept exploits venture capital's efficiency in developing technology, its access to the growing commercial technology sector, its capacity to respond with agility to changing technology, and its ability to leverage additional resources throughout the development cycle. The authors propose that the Army set up a venture capital fund as a not-for-profit corporation that makes equity investments in early-stage companies developing technologies that are important to the Army but also have potential to find commercial markets in the longer term. The use of a venture capital model for development of relevant advanced technologies could significantly help the Army achieve the acquisition reform goal of affordably acquiring the leading-edge technologies it needs.

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