By: Ronald C. Fairbanks, Clementine Starling, and Christian Trotti

What is the kernel of the issue?

Over the last three decades, the Department of Defense has modernized its forces under the idea that the US was the only great power in the world—unchallenged militarily by near-peer competitors. As a result, the defense acquisition process is outdated and prioritizes investment in exquisite, high-end systems that do not always work or have sufficiently broad applicability in future warfare.

Why is the issue important?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is rapidly altering traditional research, development, investment, and manufacturing paradigms. This creates greater access, for friend and foe alike, to an increasingly potent suite of advanced and asymmetric capabilities. In pursuit of an advantage, China’s Military-Civil Fusion strategy has enabled it to tap into and leverage emerging technologies more easily.

What is the recommendation?

The Biden administration should reduce the priority of research and development focused on systems and equipment that will bring little-to-no impact to its current great power competition with Russia and China. DOD must prioritize acquisition reform and dedicate itself to the ability to absorb technological advancements from the private sector, or it will risk falling behind China and other potential adversaries in the race for technological superiority.