New Thinking and American Defense Technology
Report of the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government
Book, Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
The national security of the United States is and will remain heavily dependent on the wise application of the nation's impressive scientific and technological capability. But political, economic, and technological changes are occurring in the world that call for creative adaptation by government if it is to continue to make effective use of science and technology for the nation's security:
- The momentous political changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the wake of "new thinking" in the Soviet Union are replacing the monolithic Eastern bloc military threat, to which American defense technology has been directed for almost half a century, with a more complex, variegated, and uncertain threat. Technology will be one of the nation's chief hedges against the uncertainties of the future.
- At the same time, American dominance of virtually all fields of technology -- and especially defense technology -- during the postwar period is giving way to a position of first among equals. The Department of Defense consequently must learn how to share in technological advance wherever it takes place, whether in the nondefense sector or in other countries.
- Finally, the Department of Defense has increasing difficulty in selecting, procuring, and managing the technology upon which it depends.
This Task Force report makes recommendations about how the U.S. national security establishment can adapt to these changes with its own "new thinking." In accordance with the charge of the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government, these recommendations focus on government organization and decision-making processes, rather than on particular policies or programs.
In past periods of rapid and fundamental change in the national security landscape, the United States has made far-reaching adaptations in its national security establishment and in its links to science and technology. In the wake of World War II, for example, the federal government decided to continue into peacetime many of the innovative mechanisms established during the war for Defense Department support of science and technology, and for the department's exploitation of the newest technological advances.
Likewise, after the 1957 launch of the Soviet Sputnik, the government established a host of new agencies and advisory bodies to help it apply technology to defense needs, including strengthening the presidential science advisory mechanism, establishing the Director of Defense Resarch and Engineering, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Today's challenges for American defense technology are also fundamental and require bold and creative adaptation. The Task Force did not address directly the new policies and programs to meet these challenges, although a readjustment of America's outlook on its national security is surely needed. The Task Force instead focused on identifying adaptations in government organization and decision-making processes that would help fundamental readjustment to occur. None of the adaptations recommended in this report involve the creation of new government agencies, but taken together they can ensure that government is equipped to reflect the "new thinking" that political, technological, and economic change requires of American defense policy.
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