Timed Out

Military technology is “not a variable cost” and shouldn’t be treated as one, said Pentagon acquisition, technology, and logistics chief Frank Kendall. Research and development “drives the rate of modernization. R&D is really not dependent on the size of the force structure. It doesn’t matter how many tanks you buy; if you want a new tank every 20 years, you have to do the R&D…And yet we have a tendency to treat it like a variable cost. And cut it…more” than other elements of defense, said Kendall during a Jan. 16 Center for New American Security event in Washington, DC. He warned that with technology, “Time is not a recoverable asset and R&D really buys you time. If you give up time, you do not get that back.” He explained that, “I can buy back readiness. I can increase force structure. (But) We have no way of buying back the time it takes to get a new product…(and) that timeline is relatively long.” It usually takes two years from stating a need to getting a budget, “then we have two…to four years of risk reduction, where we develop the technology…then we have five or six years of development…into production, and then we have few years of building up numbers to be of significance.” Cutting the early years—the R&D period—creates a delay that will exact a cost down the road, he warned.