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Emerging Technologies and Converging Technologies

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Writer: Robert L Domenici

Tight budgets can provide historic opportunities for US and the defence industry.

Over the next decade, the US defence budget will face continuing pressure on all fronts. For much of the defence industry, cutbacks to legacy programmes represent a threat instead of an opportunity. By facing budgetary challenges head-on, however, suppliers can help reshape the defenses of the United States.

From re-evaluating priorities to changing how programmes are funded and managed, there are historic opportunities. As part of this effort, the need for emerging technologies will be greater than ever. How the term “emerging technology” is defined will determine where defence dollars are allocated. Understanding “converging technology” matters, too.

Already, emerging technologies such as electromagnetic rail guns, launch systems for next-generation aircraft carriers, underwater-unmanned vehicles (UUVs) and information technology are rising to the top. But what is it about these technologies that earn them the term “emerging”?


Emerging Technologies and Converging Technologies

Emerging technologies are defined typically as technical innovations in a field that represent progressive developments for a competitive advantage. They differ from, but may be related to, converging technologies, previously distinct fields that are forming stronger inter-connections and are being designed to achieve similar goals.

Opinions vary about the current status, long-term impact and economic viability of emerging and converging technologies. In the face of known and unknown threats, however, the defence industry must redefine the term “emerging technology” for the sake of future capabilities.

A Better Definition and a Stronger Defence

Perhaps a better definition of “emerging technology” is this. An emerging technology moves beyond an incremental increase in capability. Rather, it is a generational leap that supports strength and minimises a weakness in our defence structure. Most importantly, emerging technologies enable the United States and its allies to maintain supremacy in all dimensions of future battlefields: Air, Land, Sea, Undersea and Space.

As we face a future of tight defence budgets, the US must define emerging technology in a way that ties military capabilities to our strategic needs and associated costs. The technologies in which we invest must provide significant capabilities across multiple dimensions of future battlefields. They must also protect America’s interests in multiple environments and in conflicts of varying intensities.

The United States needs to prioritise and fund emerging technology adequately. Budget cuts present a challenge, but also a historic opportunity.


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