Pushing Military Innovation

Two influential members of the House Armed Services Committee asserted that Congress historically has played a key role in pushing innovation on the military, citing advocacy for the use of aircraft carriers as offensive weapons in the 1930 and greater use of unmanned systems, including remotely piloted aircraft, in the 1990s. But the two veteran lawmakers conceded that Congress must do a better job of preventing the congressional authorization process and the acquisition system from slowing the development and use of innovative systems. “Congress is always trying to find the balance between not being a barrier and being a catalyst for change,” Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of HASC’s seapower and projection forces subcommittee, said at a Brookings Institution forum on July 24. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), a senior member of seapower and the intelligence and emerging threats subcommittees, agreed and voiced his concern that the nation could lose the technological advantage it has had since World War II if it does not push new capabilities. Other examples of Congress’s positive influence they mentioned include more emphasis on cyber as a weapon as well as the acquisition of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to protect troops against IEDs in Iraq.