The approximately $70 billion the Defense Department spends on research and development each year has but one aim: technological superiority. Technological superiority is at the heart of almost every DOD PowerPoint slide on a program or technology concept that I've ever seen, and it's usually explained by asserting that the objective is to ensure that the United States is never on the receiving end of a technological surprise perpetrated by an adversary.
So it seems preposterous to consider whether the United States has lost its technological edge in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that's just what one national security analyst suggested in a recent speech at the Australian Defence College and the Royal United Services Institute security seminar n Sydney. Max Boot, the speaker, is a senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Boot told the crowd that insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan are being more successful than the United States using technology that the United States invented. For example, he said, that while U.S. spy satellites once kept the country dominant in reconnaissance, anyone can click on Google Earth to get very detailed imagery of a specific location. Insurgents make videos of bombing incidents and get them on the Web in hours while it takes coalition officials three days to issue a press release. And Insurgents don't have the bureaucratic hurdles that slow development of new technology.
The paper explains:
Mr Boot said for the US to field a new weapons technology, a protracted bureaucratic and budget process was required. But it was different for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. "They just go out and do it. If it doesn't work, they die and that's the end of it," he said. "But if it does work and Americans or others die, they very quickly replicate that across Iraq or the entire world using information technology."
Boot also said Australians have a "cultural advantage" in the war because of an affinity for foreign cultures and languages that most U.S. soldiers don't have.
--Catherine MacRae Hockmuth