US Defense Policy: Integrating Innovation

Procuring new technologies and acquiring prototypes will give the DoD the innovation it needs to pursue the Third Offset Strategy. But it must also identify the value of these capabilities at each of the three levels of warfare. Our policy project recommends that the DoD address inefficiencies in the procurement and acquisition processes as well as critically evaluate each technology it gains through them. 

DoD Procurement

As the GAO report notes, the Department of Defense’s traditional procurement process (non-OTA, or, rather post-OTA) poses “six” major obstacles to effective public-private sector engagement. Even if DIUx uses its Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) and other DoD Components integrate it into their approaches to acquisition, they must still procure the technologies for the Third Offset Strategy because its an OTA. For this reason, our first policy recommendation is to address the shortcomings of the traditional procurement process, such as educating the “DOD contracting workforce” (see also Richard Dunn's article) and seeking ways to shorten the “lengthy contracting time.

Dod Prototype Acquisition

DIUx’s 40-company portfolio demonstrates success as an organization of the Department of Defense in the pursuit of the Third Offset Strategy. It is unclear whether organizationally the same model will fit within the organizational structures of all agencies or will produce the same level of achievement. However, DIUx’s Commercial Solutions Opening presents an alternative, apparently more effective method of acquiring new technologies. For this reason, our first recommendation is that other DoD Components with other transaction authorization (OTA) consider integrating elements of the DIUx’s Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO).

Moreover, Departmental prototype acquisition must address its own shortcomings. Our fourth recommendation stems from Richard Dunn’s assessment of the use of OTAs, which "results in their underutilization and a failure to leverage their full potential.” Dunn recommends addressing these rigidities, suggesting for example, that “[t]he secretary of defense should issue new guidance on innovative contracting and consider the creation of an organization responsible for promoting innovation within the department.” He also suggests that “military departments and selected agencies and components…[p]lan and implement training at all contracting activities with the potential to use alternative contracting authorities.[4] We suggest that the Department examine the structural inhibitors of adopting this acquisition approach.

Strategic Application: The Third Offset

Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work specifically distinguished between a broad interest in technology and the Third Offset Strategy as “strategy-based, technologically oriented.” As a result, while procurement and prototype acquisition allow the Department of Defense to learn about the warfighting applications of a given technology, but integrative strategy must be created. Our third policy recommendation is to war-game using strategies that integrate these prototypes and new technologies.

Apply AI to current inefficiencies

A lot of the discussion around AI and the defense industry evolves around R&D spending and the future role of AI. However, there are current inefficiencies within DoD where AI can be applied more immediately. One example is drones. Wired reports that 99% of military drone footage is not viewed by analysts. Plus, human review of drone footage can often lead to miscalculations, and in the worst of cases, civilian casualties. By allowing machines to view drone data, the military can gain more accurate analysis at a much faster rate. Another example is the U.S. Navy, which is reported to be using AI to increase connectivity amongst their personnel and ships. The system would allow more accurate tracking and require fewer sailors to maintain operations, therefore decreasing costs. These two examples show how current forms of AI can be used to increase productivity within the military.