It's no secret that the technical capabilities of international defense forces have significantly advanced over the past several years. The progress these nations have made has served as an impetus for the Defense Department to look for innovation that will enable U.S. warfighters to maintain technological superiority.
Unfortunately, in its effort to bring ground-breaking weapons and technology to warfighters, the department continues to attempt to acquire this technology in a manner that is not conducive to generating interest from high-tech innovators.
Progress has been made recently, but ongoing attempts to acquire commercial items in non-commercial ways--and to seek overreaching unlimited access to intellectual property--are creating a barrier for many companies.
If the United States is to maintain its technological leadership role, this environment needs to change.
In the last administration, many realized that the bureaucratic nature of acquisitions was enabling adversaries to close the technology gap. In 2015, in an effort to spur access to innovation from new quarters, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter founded an organization in Silicon Valley called the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, or DIUx. Its purpose was to accelerate the development and acquisition of technologies useful to the military. This is commendable. Innovation is innovation wherever one finds it. However, Rockwell Collins and other long-term suppliers to the Defense Department have spent more than half a decade arguing that the crux of the DoD's challenge is not better access to innovation, but rather, less burdensome acquisition of innovation. There is a big difference between these two challenges.
Since congressional passage in the mid-1990s of the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act, and, subsequently, Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 12, there has been a government acquisition structure that values what commercial technology and investment bring to military applications.
Rockwell Collins leveraged this framework, and these reforms eliminated redundancies between military and commercial businesses. In one case it saved the Pentagon more than $ 160 million in the advancement of the UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopter fleets by incorporating the common avionics architecture system. In another case, by starting with commercially-developed products and slightly modifying them for military use, its flight deck displays in the Boeing 787 were...