Technology and the military reform debate

by Kevin N. Lewis

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Concealed in the rhetoric of the military reform debate is an important question: are we using technology in military systems in an appropriate way? Some of the most important determinants of design success--especially the effects of political pressures on weapons programs--are not discussed in this paper because there is little that can be done about them. Nonetheless, there are a few steps that can be taken to improve the ability of the United States to get the most from its military technologies. The author discusses three possibilities: establish the priority of particular missions; recognize as a prime consideration that most systems must perform several jobs; and examine the dynamic aspects of system acquisition. What technological capabilities to build into a given system probably have to be decided on a case-by-case basis, but speaking generally, if the United States can conduct productive debates on operational concepts and doctrine, keep operational tradeoffs in mind, and introduce more flexibility and competition into the acquisition planning process, we can expect at least slightly better decisions about what technologies are appropriate for a particular weapon and when to incorporate them.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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