For decades we’ve been reminded by the Pentagon’s technology experts that the Defense Department, since the end of the Cold War, no longer is at the forefront of science because consumer technology is advancing at such fast pace that defense innovations can’t keep up.
It turns out that this is not true, says Pierre Chao, a defense industry analyst and managing partner at Renaissance Strategic Advisors. “It’s a common myth that Defense Department lags and commercial industry is pushing the frontiers,” Chao said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies conference. Military weapons programs have become so complex that they dwarf what is being done in the civilian world, said Chao. A case in point is the Army’s Future Combat Systems. “I can’t think of too many commercial entities that are trying to integrate” such a complex web of technologies into a single system, he noted.
One of the implications of military systems having become so intricate is that the Pentagon will continue to rely on mega-companies — also known as systems integrators — to carry out its projects, said Chao. “Large complex integrated systems cannot be executed by small companies.”