Invention, not Just Perfection

There’s an insidious creep in the world of Air Force technology away from risky pursuits with a huge potential payoff toward simply building what’s already proven, said Northrop Grumman’s CEO Wes Bush on Monday. There is “real cause for concern” on this front, he said in his speech at AFA’s 2013 Air and Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. “We need technological superiority . . . not parity,” said Bush. Inevitably, as pressure mounts on research and development spending, “remaining resources available for R&D get shifted . . . step by step into taking the technologies we’ve already developed and making them more mature so they’re ready for procurement,” he said. “That’s good . . . but what happens, the monies drift in that direction, and it’s robbed from early-stage development,” said Bush. This, he said, is “my biggest concern.” There’s an opportunity cost to this, as well as “a very dangerous risk aversion,” he asserted. Failure is a big part of “pushing technology to the maximum,” and the Air Force has to be “willing to take risks,” said Bush.