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Implications of Militarily Relevant Commercial-Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Technologies

  • Published
  • By HAF/A5SM Strategic Assessments
  • HAF/A5SM Strategic Assessments

TOPIC SPONSOR: HAF/A5SM Strategic Assessments

The world may be in the opening stages or another revolution in military affairs, spawned in large part by the ongoing information technology revolution. As with other technology revolutions, those militaries who take the initiative now to accelerate and exploit it could enjoy military advantage over competitors who fail to keep pace. The ability of USAF/DoD to forestall exploitation of this revolution by potential adversaries has to be well understood, particularly given the dual-use nature of these current and emerging technologies and the challenges of technology control, protection, and diffusion to prospective adversaries.

How will the availability of militarily relevant COTS technologies affect future warfare? How might the United States gain and maintain a relative advantage in a future warfare environment in which significant combat power can be derived from COTS-derived capabilities, such as commercial space, civilian navigation systems, commercial information infrastructure or other IT systems relevant to military command, control, and communications, etc.? What are the key trends associated with each arena of competition, the potential military benefits and limitations or current or projected commercial technologies relative to other military systems? How could the United States (or a prospective adversary) better position itself to exploit the benefits of these commercial technologies while denying similar benefits to prospective adversaries?