war on the rocks

The Innovative QDR

March 17, 2014

The most recent QDR focus on innovation reminds me of the U.S. vs. Microsoft anti-trust lawsuit that started in 1998. The merits of that case are irrelevant for the purposes of this forum, but DOD’s current approach regarding innovation in the QDR seems eerily similar to the one Microsoft took many years ago.

Microsoft used the anti-trust action to argue that the government was hurting its ability to innovate. Microsoft explicitly and implicitly made the case that it was a champion of innovation (because innovation is good), and made this assertion the center piece of its public relations campaign. It worked quite well for a couple of years before the tech crash.

Mentions of innovation abound in the QDR. Some examples and corresponding questions:

“These priorities include…invigorating efforts to build innovative partnerships.”

—What differentiates an innovative partnership from a partnership? Any examples of who or how?

Innovation – within our own Department and in our interagency and international partnerships – is a central line of effort. We are identifying new presence paradigms, including potentially positioning additional forward deployed naval forces in critical areas…”

—How is this innovative?

“We will actively seek innovative approaches to how we fight, how we posture the force, and how we leverage our asymmetric strengths and technological advantages. Innovation is paramount given the increasingly complex warfighting environment we expect to encounter.”

—When doesn’t the U.S. seek innovative approaches to these things from a military perspective? And war is war, nothing is increasingly complex about it, unless fewer resources equals more complexity.

“We are also continuing to implement acquisition reforms efforts…incentivizing productivity and innovation in industry and government…”

—This won’t happen any more than it already has in the past dozen years with regard to acquisition; if anything it will get worse because of a lack of urgency and money.

There are many more examples but it’s all the same stuff, innovative partnerships, innovative concepts, innovative technology…

Here is what innovation means…DOD is going to have a lot less money to play with, so it is going to be smarter and yield all these wonderful efficiencies. You know, things that for some reason it hasn’t done already because it wasn’t smart enough to grasp the significance of these inefficiencies in the past. Right.

Innovators don’t talk about innovation, they innovate.