Technical Data Rights: Finding Common Ground.

Author:Magnuson, Stew
Position:Editor's Notes

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies recently invited reporters to a media roundtable to present two new studies. One was about the chronic pilot shortage. The other was an in-depth look at the ongoing controversy over who owns the technical data rights, or intellectual property, when the military acquires a technology from a contractor.

The latter subject was as exciting to some people as "watching the paint dry," head of the institute, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, admitted as he kicked off the talk.

But there were free sandwiches, so the reporters listened politely to the presentation and even asked a few questions about this arcane topic.

And then in the middle of the roundtable discussion President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement that there would be a "space force"--separate but equal to the Air Force.

Many of the journalists wolfed down what remained of their sandwiches and made a beeline for their offices where most--including this one--shoved the matter of technical data rights into the farthest recesses of their minds as they wrote about the implications of a potential new armed service.

But the report, "Data Requirements and Rights: Time for a Reassessment," written by retired Air Force Col. Herbert C. Kemp, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Lawrence Stutzriem and institute Senior Fellow Heather Penney, deserves a closer look.

Drying paint is trivial unless one paints houses for a living. Then it's very important. And so is the controversy facing the Pentagon and the defense industry, which are at odds over how much of a company's technical data should be shared with defense programs.

The Defense Department wants this data so it can affordably sustain a weapon system for years to come without the company that created it having a monopoly on repairs and upgrades.

"The Air Force is acting rationally, as is Congress, in pushing the Air Force to reduce sustainment costs from a lifecycle perspective," said Stutzriem.

On the other hand, intellectual property is a company's "crown jewels," and signing it away is abhorrent to them.

That is particularly true of the innovative technology companies outside the defense realm that the Air Force and other services are attempting to woo. They are simply not going to give their IP away to the government, Stutzriem added.

One of the problems Penney pointed out is that the acquisition system was created in the industrial age and military technology is transitioning to the...

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