When most people hear about public-private partnerships, they think of things like baseball stadiums and state lotteries. These partnerships, commonly called P3s, have been around in some form or another for decades. This is also true in the Third Offset Strategy, a major component of which is the US military seeking out innovative technology to keep our security infrastructure competitive.

P3s have been in the security sector for some time now, with many law enforcement agencies relying on third party companies for their technology. Its use in these sectors is increasing as technology becomes more advanced. So, it makes sense that those focusing on the Third Offset Strategy are looking to leverage these partnerships.

Private Companies and Offset Strategies

Private companies as part of the military’s strategies are nothing new. They’ve been around in some form or another since the discovery of America. During that time, the king and queen of Spain hired private sea captains to seek out new areas and funded those trips. In return, the captain would deliver what they found, whether it was goods or simple information about the land. It was during one of those trips that Amerigo Vespucci landed in America.

P3s became part of military-civilian collaboration (and a precursor to the First Offset Strategy) in the 1940s, when President Roosevelt created the National Defense Research Committee. The members of that committee were captains of industry who were committed to furthering science and technology. The committee discussed how discoveries in these sectors could be used in protecting the US from outside threats.

This step served to create an entire industry that turned defense into a business. It’s a recession proof, predictable business model because there will always be threats and the government will always seek out ways to minimize them. There are quite a few big corporate names that partner up with the government regularly. Some include:

  • Boeing – Boeing is a company that has a lot of dealings with the US government, including being responsible for making the planes that make up Air Force One. They also have created advanced weapons systems and missile defense for the US military.
  • Lockheed-Martin – This is another company that provides research and development to the US military, to include the recent development of F-35 Lightning II, an all-weather combat aircraft in its fifth generation.
  • Raytheon – This company holds a $1 billion contract to improve cyber security for a dozen defense agencies to keep military systems secure.
  • Intrepid Solutions – This is a smaller company, but that didn’t stop them from closing a 5-year deal to provide connections to third-party IT providers, specific for military use.

These private enterprises have dealings outside of the US military, but are frequently contracted to handle research and development on the military’s behalf. This is because independent contractors have a certain amount of flexibility that the government doesn’t.

How P3s Allow for Flexible Innovation

The government doesn’t move quickly. Think of the black beret as an example. In 2001, the US military decided to switch to wearing black berets with field uniforms. Previously, the patrol cap was worn. This was a controversial decision that most of the military did not support. It took ten years of consistent policy challenges to get the Army back to the more practical patrol cap—and that was just about hats! It becomes much more difficult when dealing with something complex, like introducing a new rifle or piece of equipment. The military would have to develop and test the weaponry and then retrain soldiers on the new standard, which would take years.

P3s allow the military to contract jobs out to more flexible private enterprises. These private partners do the research, development, and field tests. They cover all the groundwork needed to ensure that our military continues to be competitive and efficient. Here are just a few benefits P3s offer:

  1. Access to emerging tech: While the military has its own research laboratories, outside laboratories with different ideas may come up with something that can be repurposed. Consider the radio technology available during WWII. This tech was designed for entertainment, but then was repurposed to allow pilots to communicate.
  2. Less red tape: In the military, procedures must be followed for everything and that can slow down the development of new technology. However, private companies have less bureaucratic red tape to deal with, allowing them to invent faster.
  3. More cost effective: Some of these billion-dollar contracts we hear about are saving the military trillions. Consider drone technology. Had the military designed this on their own, they likely would have needed a special research and development group, along with teams of scientists and researchers. All of these individuals would have had to be in the military, meaning recruiting efforts would need to target them. By using third party providers, they can simply pay to have the technology made to their specifications. In short, they pay for results rather than infrastructure, staff, and theories.
  4. Scalable: By using many independent contractors, the military can find the best new technology and repurpose that for their own efforts. This may involve contracting the same job out to several private firms.

These P3 relationships allow the military to effectively manage the Third Offset Strategy (loosely defined as Human-Machine collaboration, autonomy, AI and machine learning) by leveraging the flexibility of private businesses. This strategy focuses on a two-pronged effort of intelligence gathering and using our technology as a deterrent. This would not be possible without P3s.

Clearspeed is a purveyor of technology applicable in both the military arena and in the private sector. Our RRA technology allows us to review threat levels in investigations and take proactive measures. For more information on how AC Global can help with your security, contact us.

Image Source | Unsplash user Joey Kyber