Mar 7, 2023
Technological superiority is vital to U.S. national security. New RAND research models and assesses the challenges and gaps in the Department of Defense (DoD) commercial technology pipeline, from concept to fielding. To better harness commercial technologies, DoD needs policies that incentivize and improve information sharing, coordination, and collaboration between defense innovation organizations and traditional acquisition stakeholders.
Technological superiority is vital to U.S. national security and defense. The Department of Defense's (DoD's) direct investment in basic research and development remains critically important, but it is insufficient to retain a technological advantage against near-peer rivals, especially China, which is aggressively modernizing. DoD recognizes that it must leverage relevant private sector–developed technology.
To that end, DoD has created an ecosystem of defense innovation labs, hubs, and centers to help bridge the technology innovation gap between private-sector firms and the U.S. military. These various defense innovation organizations (DIOs)—the Defense Innovation Unit, the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, the National Security Innovation Network, the Air Force's AFWERX, and the Army Applications Laboratory, among others—have proliferated over the past two decades and operate independently of one another to address specific but often similar needs.
The authors identify and assess challenges to quickly harnessing emerging commercial technologies for military use within the existing defense innovation ecosystem, especially when much of this innovation is the product of individuals and businesses that have traditionally not worked with DoD.
The authors examine the organizations, authorities, and processes—including innovation organizations, requirements, acquisition, and funding—that form the DoD's commercial technology pipeline (CTP). Then they use game play to test alternative approaches to potentially reform and strengthen the pipeline in ways that would accelerate the military's identification, development, and adoption of commercial technology.
The Commercial Technology Pipeline and Defense Innovation Organizations
Challenges and Gaps
Approaches to Strengthen the Commercial Technology Pipeline
Key Findings, Recommendations, and Considerations for Implementation
Defense Innovation Organization Deep Dives
Technology Case Studies
Acquisition Policy Game Design