One of the most widespread military clichés is that amateurs talk strategy while professionals talk logistics. In an information age war against elusive, rapidly evolving adversaries, strategic advantage hinges on a military’s ability to quickly adapt, innovate, and leverage both data and expertise.
Amateurs talk technology. Professionals talk acquisitions.
While the essays in this issue of the DACS STN explore aspects of open technology development and open source software from technological, business, and policy perspectives, it is important to understand the strategic context for the military’s shift to open technologies.
Without a sense of the strategic context, discussions about technology development tend to devolve, either into religious wars between rival schools of engineering methodology or turf battles about whose all-singing, all-dancing, “network-centric” ox is being gored. Most of these conflicts about how and what to build are enmeshed in an industrial age acquisition system well suited to the Cold War. This system is set up to build tanks, aircraft carriers and missiles – massive amounts of hardware that take a long time to develop and manufacture – to counter a slow, bureaucratically hidebound adversary that’s trying to do the same thing in the same way. In this strategic context, agility is not that important. What’s important is scale and the threat of overwhelming force, and the current acquisition system delivers in that context.