/ Published November 22, 2011
Arms and Innovation: Entrepreneurship and Alliances in the Twenty-first Century Defense Industry by James Hasik. University of Chicago Press, 2008, 224 pp.
Arms and Innovation has appeal for both the operational and logistical parts of the Air Force. The author probably intended his book for businessmen and industry engineers, but it has real value for military aviators, engineers, and acquisition officers as well.
Hasik has solid qualifications for the work, and his writing style is good, though some of the business jargon may seem a bit cumbersome. A senior consultant with Charles River Associates International and an advisor for businesses in the armaments industry, he has an economics degree from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in both physics and history from Duke. Hasik also coauthored The Precision Revolution: GPS and the Future of Aerial Warfare, another well-received work relevant to Airmen.
The theme of Arms and Innovation is that small firms can turn a profit in an industry dominated by a few giants like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed-Martin. They can do so by taking advantage of their strengths in innovative technologies that do not require deep scientific research, long production runs, or large-scale integration capabilities. Such small companies can survive by conducting independent work, partnering with the major corporations, or acquiring what they need in the way of unfamiliar technologies through market mechanisms. They should proceed with care, though, because the giants can overwhelm smaller businesses in some circumstances.
To make his point, Hasik uses several case studies, apparently drawn from his previous writings. Obviously his chapter on the Joint Direct Attack Munition system looks to his book on precision weapons and the global positioning system. He includes similar chapters on space programs, remotely piloted aerial systems, small naval vessels, and—especially—new vehicles to cope with mines and roadside bombs in the Middle East. Hasik discusses opportunities to take advantage of innovation in overseas communities (Australia for small vessels and South Africa for armored vehicles) to the profit of both—new ideas for America and profits for the overseas businesses.
Notions about innovation are useful for officers in every field. People in both the technical and business fields of Air Force Materiel Command will find the case studies instructive. Operators will benefit from the book by adding to their understanding of the innovation and acquisition processes against the day when they become involved in the generation of requirements. Everyone needs to understand that innovation can come from a host of different directions—in new technologies and in better ways of combining and using older ones. I recommend that air warrior-scholars give Arms and Innovation a high place on their reading lists.
Dr. David R. Mets
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."