An analysis of the defense acquisition strategy for unmanned systems
Jones, Courtney David
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In the past 12 years of sustained conflict, the Department of Defense (DoD) has procured thousands of unmanned systems, from ordnance disposal robots to airborne surveillance platforms to unmanned cargo helicopters. These assets have saved countless lives and have become critical to DoD strategy. The health of the U.S. robotics industry must become a national strategic imperative in order to maintain technology dominance. The cyclical nature of DoD funding inevitably results in industry expansion and consolidation. The unmanned systems industry will be subject to consolidation pressures. Keeping unmanned system cost-per-copy low is critical; thus, economies of scale should be highly valued. However, premature robotics industry consolidation could threaten innovation and competition that will be critical for the U.S. military to maintain its dominance. With impending budget reductions, there will be increasing pressure to narrow down on robotics technologies to achieve efficiencies and reduce costs. However, to maintain the health of the robotics industry, the acquisition strategy must be contingent on the evolution of industry. This thesis examines the defense robotics industry and historical technology S-curves for comparable industries and evaluates unmanned system acquisition strategies.
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