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Emerging Issue Paper 1- Innovation: The military now uses civilian technologies

by on January 20, 2010

This emerging issue paper highlights the growing trend in the military toward using civilian technologies, a choice that is made to face the challenges of innovation in the new age. This paper also examines those challenges and reasons behind this trend.

Advanced technologies used to be developed by military and government intelligence departments in their classified projects. And after those technologies are developed, they are filtered and used by civilians.

However, when it comes to 21st century, things are going the other way. Traditionally the military has preferred to develop and control its own technology, not just for tactical advantage but also to ensure that equipment was tough and reliable enough for those whose lives would depend on it. But now while more and more civilian technology is becoming suitable for military or intelligence departments to use, they are obviously reconsidering their approaches.

In 2008, Google was recruited by the CIA to help them better process and share information they gather about suspects. The F-22 Raptor, the fifth-generation fighter aircraft, also used several commercial technologies. In China, the department of defense has purchased high-powered CT scanners manufactured by GE to help to spot “birth defects” or signs of deterioration in components of their Ballistic missiles, Cruise missiles, and even their nation’s nuclear warheads.

The end of the Cold War constrained the defense budgets of most countries in the world, making their armies and intelligence departments find their own way to remain appropriate military power. As advanced and sophisticated technologies and products have become commoditized products which are available to everyone, there seems less reason for the army not to buy them and use the savings for more critical equipment that needs to be built-to-order. For the army, taking advantage of the fast-moving consumer-electronics industry to fill the gap of innovation is a wise choice.

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2 Comments
  1. Emily_Cunningham permalink

    Reminds me of an article I tweeted about yesterday, Defense more likely than civilian agencies to use social networking tools

    http://www.nextgov.com/nextgov/ng_20100115_4048.php?oref=mostread

    Here’s a snip:

    Defense Department employees, including uniformed personnel, are more likely to use social networking applications than workers in civilian agencies, emphasizing its use for internal collaboration rather than communicating with the public, according to a survey conducted by an information technology company and released on Thursday.
    ….
    When we look at agencies’ adoption of this technology, it’s driven by the mission,” said Jim Gill, vice president of public sector business at Saba. “The necessity to get information [from our armed forces] back to a command, to speed the process of [communicating] raw intelligence from the battlefield, is enhanced by collaboration and enterprise social networking.”

    -Emily

  2. Two things about how social media technologies are changing the military/government:

    1) Deborah Frincke, the Cybersecurity Chief Scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, spoke yesterday as the Keynote for the INSER Intelligence Community Colloquium, which was focused on “Information and Intelligence in Open Society”.
    She mentioned the *very* complicated process of how website changes and even presentation slides must be vetted by half a dozen or more departments (marketing, legal, communications, Classified Information, IT, ect). Yet everyone has a fully open door on social media venues such as Twitter, for the most part unregulated and not even generally discouraged. Very very interesting talk about how the “open” nature is changing classified and government agencies.

    2) A pop-culture reference and acknowledgement that this change is happening. In an episode of TNT’s “The Closer”: the fictional police deputy chief couldn’t get official-channel information about a military suspect, so she used Google to get what she needed. And it worked.

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