After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011, Congress opened up the check book and the intelligence community suddenly found itself able to get everything that had been on its wish list for years. Now the budget constraints on the intelligence community have forced the outsourcing of research and developments, which some in the community do not think will achieve the desired results:
Experts said the shift reflects a larger issue in the defense contracting community: Companies are less willing to take risks, and the government doesn’t have the money to fund all the innovation it needs.
“I think there’s an acknowledgment that the system is broken,” a senior industry executive said. But the executive was skeptical that the commercial sector will or can make up for the R&D deficit.
“We’ve seen this before. For a period of time there’s been a big call on using commercial capabilities in the space area, and it just hasn’t worked. They haven’t achieved the kinds of engineering feats that are required in defense.”
That the federal government would turn toward commercial space makes sense given differing perceptions of risk, said Peter Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution.
“One of the major shifts is how the civilian side is accelerating not just ahead, but in some case well past the innovation from the traditional firms,” he wrote in an email. “And a large part of that is due to a business model that looks at risk as not something to be pushed on the government, but part of the very act of being in business.”