Innovating how DoD innovates

DIY Threats: It isn't hard to imagine DIY shops - like the San Francisco Bay area's TechShop (pictured) - springing up in today's asymmetric battlefields and putting sophisticated prototyping tools in the hands of amateur IED-makers.

The proliferation of increasingly sophisticated design, prototyping, and manufacturing technologies has democratized technology innovation for just about everyone –  except for perhaps DoD. Asymmetric improvisation – leveraging the unexpected to disrupt carefully laid plans and create disproportionate outcomes – is the new force multiplier. The linked brief entitled Improvised Everything provides a good overview of this idea.

I have long argued that DoD needs to fundamentally re-think its technology innovation approach with improvised threats in mind.  Everyone knows that decades-long acquisition cycles are a strategic vulnerability, yet painfully little has been done to adapt how DoD sources, develops, procures, and fields new capabilities.  In an age when the commercial marketplace is setting the pace for advanced technology development, the DoD acquisition enterprise must learn to seamlessly leverage external ideas and technology innovations to keep pace with a continuous stream of improvised threats.

The linked article - Could DARPA’s “Crowdsourcing” Solve Military Vehicle Problems - talks about how DARPA is waking up to this idea. But I would argue that the real innovation is less about creating a new light armored vehicle and more about demonstrating the value of a new technology innovation model that will ensure DoD’s long-term competitiveness in an “improvised” threat environment.

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