Document created: 22 October 03
Air University Review, September-October 1973
Lieutenant General Kenneth W. Schultz
One of the great challenges of the 1970s is the systematic application of advanced technologies to the civil sector. To date, much of this country’s technology transfer has been a kind of “random harvest” of the technological revolution of the past 25 years, a revolution sparked by priority defense and other government programs. We are still, for the most part, accomplishing technology transfer in a patchwork, hit-or-miss fashion that does not get at the real root of our problems or mobilize the full power of the new technology to solve them. To use a timely automotive simile, we are patching on progressively more emission-control equipment when we should be designing a wholly new engine that is, by its basic nature, pollution-free.
It is past time now for a broad-based, consistent, systematic drive to translate our rich store of technology to civil applications.
defense needs, spin-off, systems applications
In this article I shall discuss the nation’s urgent defense needs today, which are a major spur to continuing technological progress; spin-off, past and present, which has proved the dual benefits the country receives from investment in government research; and the systems applications of that technology, which pose a particular challenge and opportunity for those concerned with developing significant civil applications of our mid-twentieth century technological revolution.
The primary objective of military research and development is to insure that we maintain a competitive edge of weapon superiority over any potential enemy. It is this edge that gives us genuine deterrent power—or, failing deterrence, the strength to win any conflict thrust upon us. Regardless of our hopes for the results of long-term negotiations, we must be prepared to counter any threat against us now or in the future. The maintenance of our strength is, in itself, our best assurance of fruitful and equitable results at the conference table.
Many of the most promising new technologies are the result of military R&D undertaken solely for this defense objective. They are products of a time when this vital role of military R&D to the national security was generally understood, accepted, and supported by the American people.
As noted recently, however, by General George S. Brown, then Commander of the Air Force Systems Command:
Today we have a different situation. Our national security needs are not so generally accepted. There are competing demands for very large sums of public money—for health, for transportation, for education, for the poor, for the elderly, for the deteriorating environment, as well as defense: And all are magnified by the rising cost of everything—including personnel and weapon systems.
threat of Soviet R&D
Under these circumstances we have a genuine problem in insuring that today’s military R&D accomplishes its primary objective, superior deterrent defenses for the long haul.
The Soviet Union has very rapidly caught up with the United States in the quality and quantity of many strategic and general purpose weapons. The Soviet swing-wing supersonic bomber, the Backfire, is in test flight now, and numerous new tactical aircraft designs are in-being. First-line Soviet ICBM’S, SS-9s, SS-11s, and SS-13s, have already been modified to improve their effectiveness, and the Soviet force includes some 1600 ICBM launchers, compared to the U.S. force of 1000.
Numbers alone do not adequately indicate the magnitude of the threat. Some 300 of the Soviet missiles are SS-9s capable of carrying a warhead of up to 25 megatons. The SS-9’s size and payload capability also make it available to deliver the Soviet Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) or a depressed-trajectory ICBM. The Soviet Union is also now testing multiple warheads on its intercontinental ballistic missiles. Further, they are steadily developing and building other strategic offensive and defensive systems. These include the Yankee-class missile-firing nuclear submarine, being turned out at a rate that indicates the U.S.S.R. could surpass our Polaris/Poseidon fleet within a few years; the Galosh antiballistic missile system; and an unprecedentedly large and modern “blue water” navy.
In the spring of 1972 Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird told newsmen:
We have superiority today because of our technology. . . . Given their technological capabilities, I’m sure they can match our technology within two or three years. That is why it is absolutely essential that we maintain technological superiority over the Soviet Union, and why I put such a high priority on our research and development budgets for the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Russia’s present military strength has grown out of the great Soviet drive in research and development over the past decade. The Soviets are continuing to maintain their momentum, while we in recent years have been increasing our effort barely enough to offset the effects of inflation. The Soviet technological work force has increased almost 340 percent in two decades. Our own, especially in the last five years, has been trending in the opposite direction. Indicative of the same comparative trend is R&D budgeting of the past 15 years. In fiscal year 1955 the U.S.S.R. spent about $2 billion on military and space research, development, and test. The U.S. spent $3 billion. By 1968 Soviet and U.S. expenditures were on a par, at about $13.4 billion. From that point forward the Russians have continued to increase their R&D spending at a rate of about 1 billion equivalent dollars each year, while U.S. outlays in the same area have either leveled off or decreased.
Present emphasis in the military establishment is a realistic one of concentrating with new intensity on improved management of R&D to wring maximum benefits from available resources.
But we must also urge a realistic acknowledgment that there is a direct, inescapable relationship between what goes into the hopper in the way of R&D resources and what comes out in both defense capabilities and dividends for the civilian sector. The natural progression of the mainstream of U.S. technological effort in this century has been from swords to plowshares, from specific defense applications to the kind of chain-reaction developments in the civil sector that spell progress and new opportunities for prosperity and higher living standards in today’s world.
past technology transfer to civil aviation
The past contributions of military and related government research and development to the civil sector are evident in almost any direction one looks. Consider, for instance, the contributions to civil aviation, a field of long-standing American pre-eminence. Late in summer 1972 were published the results of a joint Department of Defense, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Department of Transportation study of this subject. Designated RADCAP (for Research and Development Contributions to Aviation Progress), the study indicated that eight out of ten of all commercial jet airliners operating in the free world today were designed and built in the United States. One out of every four of these American-built jet airliners traces its lineage directly to a single military bomber program.
The four-engine transport planes tempered and proved in military service during World War II grew into a series of new commercial airliners that expanded domestic and worldwide passenger services and created global markets for U.S. commercial aircraft in the postwar period. The military also set the pace for the postwar change to jet aircraft. Boeing’s 707 series of commercial transports, for instance, drew heavily on the company’s experience with the B-47 and B-52 bomber programs.
The long and impressive list of major technological advances in civil aviation made under the aegis of government R&D over the years includes the radial air-cooled engine, retractable landing gear, supercharging, deicing, two-way radio communication, controllable-pitch propellers, cabin pressurization, turbojet, instrument landing system, sweptback and delta wings, Doppler navigation radar, airborne digital computers, and digital flight simulators. The IFF (identification, friend or foe) electronic equipment developed by the Air Force to identify aircraft from the ground in combat situations is being used by air traffic control installations to spot specific aircraft in commercial air lanes quickly. Transfers of technology in the fields of materials, avionics, transport equipment and techniques, etc., are also legion.
In summary, the RADCAP study concluded that about 90 percent of the most significant technological advances in U.S. aviation between 1925 and 1972 were the result of government-sponsored research and development; 70 percent of these advances came from programs funded by the military, which also pioneered operation of about 75 percent of them.
The RADCAP study also came to some less cheerful conclusions pertinent to our present concern over R&D support:
The significance of the long-term trends is that unit prices and development costs of civil transport aircraft are rising faster than the Gross National Product. And funds for aeronautical research and development are rising slower than the GNP. There can only be two results of these disturbing trends; major new aircraft programs either will decrease in number or will change in nature.
. . . The current absence of a firm military requirement for a new long-haul transport could have a significant impact on the technology and development base that historically has existed for civil airliner development.
In short, the forecast is for possible drought, if government sources long relied on for transfer of technology to civil aviation continue to decline.
technology transfer from space program
Equally impressive is the spin-off from another area of major military and government research and development in the last twenty years, the missile and space program. There is a seemingly endless list of technology transfers from the space program to the fields of bioscience, health, and safety, including.
—equipment for remote monitoring of heart patients
—a wheelchair for paraplegics operated by eye movements alone
—derivatives of missile fuels used in the treatment of tuberculosis and mental ills
—ultrahigh-speed dental drills
—supersensitive sensors used in early detection of disease
—artificial valves for damaged hearts
—an electronic-beam microprobe for advanced biological tissue examination
—lasers for delicate eye surgery
—infrared measurement for early detection of cancers
—computer techniques developed for improving planetary photography, to enhance the clarity of clinical X rays
—a vibrationless table for electrocardiograms.
Space spin-off has also poured a flood of new materials, techniques, and products into our free enterprise system to increase the productivity of industry and create new jobs for the new millions of our expanding population. To name a few from the multitude of examples
—an electromagnetic hammer that makes metals flow like soft plastic
—new materials: super alloys, foam insulation, thermal-control coating, polymer resin adhesives offering a host of new properties for stronger, lighter-weight auto and truck bodies, artificial limbs, bridges, housing construction, even dental fillings and plates
—revolutionary printing techniques and tools
—new tools for measuring the thickness of steel in the mills, stripping coaxial cables, detecting gas leaks in small boats, testing the density and composition of smog, determining stress factors in buildings and other large structures
—fire- and flame-resistant coatings, fabrics, electrical insulation for greater safety in home, industry, and travel.
Add to the spin-off list also the many developments in computer technology, among them a greatly increased capability of simulation that makes possible evaluation of large system designs in the fields of transportation, communications, military command and control, and medicine. The spin-off from government developments in computer technology is probably one of the most massive dividends ever realized from an R&D investment. It was recently estimated that every dollar invested in electronics so far has brought in $8 in added profits just on such sophisticated equipment as advanced-design data-processing systems.
These examples of spin-off are only a token summary, a scratching of the surface of the technological dividends realized to date from military and other government research.
most challenging spin-off: systems engineering
Of all the rich harvest, however, one type of spin-off appears to pose the greatest challenge and offer the greatest opportunity for translation to civil applications. That spin-off is systems engineering, the precisely orchestrated and time-phased management of the new technologies in outsize programs to achieve major goals, new step functions in our capabilities. It has been called the tool that enables us to “invent on demand.” This type of effort has been a unique contribution of military and government R&D in the last two decades. Outstanding examples are the priority development of the intercontinental ballistic missile and the Apollo program, with its firm goal of putting men on the moon within a single decade and bringing them home safely.
Much of our application of technology spin-off so far has been a matter of picking up the fruit that fell at our feet. But in systems engineering we now possess the management systems and techniques to go after predetermined goals, to shoot at a definite target.
We have achieved step increases in our capabilities anyway, of course. Many of them have taken place within the life-span of most who will read this article. In the past fifty or sixty years we have seen the evolution of radio from the crystal set built in an oatmeal box to the highly sophisticated, transistorized sets of today. We have seen the automobile alter the patterns of both American production and American living. We have seen the airplane shrink the world and television bring it, in the very colors of life, into our homes. We have seen the communications revolution wrought by man-made satellites and electronic data processing.
past step advances random, often surprising
Yet, until the last few decades those advances have been random. Even when the men who brought them about had a directed vision and a goal that drove them, too often they were not generally shared, understood, or supported to the point of practical application. The airplane at one time seemed destined to remain only a stunt attraction for county fairs. It took 112 years after the principles of photography were discovered before they were practically applied. The telephone was 56 years in moving from idea to application; radio, 35 years.
Even some of the comparable step advances that have come to us as dividends of post-World War II military and government research have come with a certain element of surprise—as if we were catching the comet by the tail, rather than directing its trajectory. For instance, very few of those even in the thick of the space program fully foresaw in our earliest experimental space satellites the scope and the speed of the revolution they would create in communications, weather forecasting, navigation, defense early warning, command and control, natural resources survey and conservation, and all the offshoots of these major functions.
I don’t think many of us back then, listening to the first ComSat orbiting with President Eisenhower’s Christmas message to the world, would have bet much money that fifteen years later
—we would be well into the second generation of defense
satellite communications systems for the United States, the United Kingdom, and
—that we would be navigating ships through the polar ice pack by satellite;
—that we would have eyes in space capable of “seeing” by microwave sensors through the cloud cover and mapping even the cloud-shrouded arctic and antarctic regions;
—that we would have a busy little slab-eared Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS) up there inventorying U.S. timber resources, analyzing the haze over Los Angeles, studying icebergs in the antarctic, detecting locust breeding sites in Saudi Arabia, and studying monsoons in Japan, among its many duties.
There’s an old toast that says, “May the most you wish for be the least you get.” It has been true of our space-age spin-off. The application of systems engineering to the many well-defined problems of our society is probably the biggest challenge today in making the most of our new technologies. It is already being done on a growing scale by state and municipal agencies seeking solutions to their problems.
One thing we do have to realize is that by merely calling a simplistic surface treatment a “system analysis” or “systems engineering approach” does not necessarily make it that. A so-called report was published recently on “systems study” to help one of our law enforcement agencies on the East Coast. After the expenditure of a good deal of time—and energy presumably—the study concluded that the law enforcement agency needed new radios, more channels, and an antenna on the hill, so that cars on both sides of the hill could talk to each other. We used to call that kind of analysis “common sense.” We should not begin confusing it with systems engineering now.
challenge not only to engineers
Putting it all together in genuinely new, root-deep concepts is a challenge not to engineers and technologists alone. It applies with equal urgency to politicians and public administrators at both national and local levels. A number of these leaders are showing a most heartening interest in optimum utilization of the new technology. It is an inescapable fact of life that a genuinely successful systems effort in many of our most pressing problem areas today—transportation, pollution control, law enforcement, and others—depends upon an unprecedented degree of civic cooperation. I once asked someone in the Pentagon why a fast through train between the Pentagon and Dulles Airport could not be set up to handle the heavy traffic between the two. The answer was, “Because it would have to go through 28 separate jurisdictions.” In such areas as pollution control and law enforcement, including policing of the drug traffic, there are not only local and national but also international relationships to be considered.
Also, we must not underestimate the problem of human resistance to change and our responsibility to foresee and make compassionate provision for the human dislocations that major change can cause, even when it is for the greater good of the greatest number. The introduction of electricity put a lot of lamplighters out of work, and all kinds of people faced a rough time economically when the automobile began to replace the horse.
In a number of ways the actual engineering and technical applications of the new technology are the simplest aspect of the total effort required to transfer it to the civil sector.
The rewards for success in accomplishing that transfer—rewards in the economy and in the whole life quality of tomorrow—can be enormous. Already a number of promising approaches are being made, largely by members of industry traditionally associated with defense and other government work. In transportation, for instance, interesting developments are under way, especially in the areas of personal rapid transit, short-haul air and rail transportation, and pollution-free vehicles. A number of personal transportation systems are now under experimental development, and one pioneer aerospace company is working on a pollution-free, “wind-up” bus that will operate by using the power of an advanced flywheel.
There are still worlds enough left to conquer, however. There is that number one question of the smog-free automobile engine: And there is the whole “Gordian knot” of traffic control. In the past twenty years jet aircraft have cut travel time across the country by a factor of four. Yet it is not uncommon for people who have flown from Los Angeles to Dulles or Kennedy in four and a half hours to have to spend half again that much time getting from the airport into the city. And anyone who daily fights rush-hour traffic in an urban area is all too familiar with the problem awaiting solution there. So we have more than enough problems at hand for systems engineering to get its teeth into the transportation field.
In communications, great progress has already been made, but the whole field of digital communication in systems application can profit from what’s been done in the space and missile business. In developing digital communication to boosters that just don’t have ears and must be addressed with the speed of electrons in the digital mode, we have created a tool with great possibilities for other applications.
For our growing problems of pollution and waste disposal, there is also much hope in the new technology. Our earlier satellites have pointed the way to an entirely new capability for the detection of waste and abuse of resources. The Earth Resources Technology Satellite refines and greatly extends that capability. With everyone or the 150,000 pictures it takes each week available to the public for $1.25 each, it may also do an unprecedented job of education concerning the extent of pollution, worldwide, and its effect on man’s total environment. This is also a prime area for the application of systems engineering. One long-term defense contractor (Boeing) has engineered the dual problems of arid wasteland and urban waste disposal at a now-fertile oasis in Oregon.
Opportunities in the area of health care, education, and law enforcement are also legion and only await the vision and the will to make them realities. The educative potential of the communications satellites, for example, is boundless. Not too long ago a satellite was launched to stationary orbit over the subcontinent of India to broadcast educational programs to even the remotest villages, where power to run the receivers may have to be generated by men pumping bicycles. Our own Department of Health, Education and Welfare has a plan to use satellite communications to provide better education for the children of migrant farm workers. Schools serving different migrant farm labor areas would use the same televised curriculum, so that, regardless of where the children moved, they could pick up their schoolwork where they had left it in a previous location.
New capabilities for data storage, retrieval, and processing are among the many technological advances with great potential for our health and law enforcement needs. Computers are fast becoming as much a part of the hospital atmosphere as thermometers—which, incidentally, have also been remodeled by the new technology. Possibilities are even being studied for the use of miniature computers to replace damaged neurological circuits in the body and restore control of limbs, etc. The pervasive influence of the computers is everywhere about us.
At my own headquarters in Los Angeles, I noted recently that the computers have revolutionized the whole process of fingerprint identification. Our security people can now check out prints with Washington in a matter of minutes, a process that used to take days and even weeks. Imagine what this new capability alone must mean to law enforcement agencies across the country.
two major challenges
One cannot doubt for a moment that, predicated on our whole past experience in the translation of swords into plowshares, present opportunities for progress through transfer of technology to the civil sector are almost limitless. We face two principal challenges in working to realize the full scope of the possibilities now within our grasp. And I think we are now in a critical period that may well determine whether we insure the continuing optimum momentum of this technological revolution that has brought us such a rich harvest or permit the momentum to falter, with the inevitable eventual decline in our powers for peace, progress, and prosperity.
· Our first challenge is the necessity for maintaining levels of military and other governmental research and development adequate for both credible deterrent defenses and the continual augmentation and update of the spin-off to the civil sector derived from that research and development. This must be accomplished in the face of a fairly widespread “antitechnology” temper on the part of the public. We must acknowledge the existence of an attitude of indifference, in some cases frustration, disillusionment, even resentment of the alleged depersonalizing aspect of our technology-oriented society.
If we opt for the high road of maintaining truly effective levels of government R&D in today’s climate, then we must be realistic in our budget expectations. We must be prepared to make an extraordinary management effort to get maximum return from the resources made available to us. The Department of Defense has been increasingly engaged in such an effort for the past several years. Our industrial partners also must intensify their efforts to realize the fullest possible value from their own R&D dollars.
And we must at the same time somehow do a better job of making it clear to our fellow citizens that technology is not a bogeyman dominating a faceless society. We must make it clear that, properly nurtured and directed, technology is a tremendous power source for good that can serve us with almost endless solutions to our human problems and needs.
· Our second major challenge, as I see it, is the systematic, organized application of the new technology to the specific problems and goals of our society. We must use our systems engineering experience, techniques, and tools to mobilize the technological advances in many fields and mount them in concentrated, precisely planned and executed attacks on the objectives. We must stop letting this technological revolution and the transition from swords to plowshares just happen to us and start causing it to happen in the ways and the areas where we want and need it most for the future well-being of our nation.
Hq Space and Missile Systems Organization, AFSC
Lieutenant General Kenneth W. Schultz (B.S.A.E., New York University; M.B.A., George Washington University) is Commander, Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO), AFSC. A command pilot, he has worked in R&D since 1951; as Chief, Aircraft and Missile Preliminary Design Branch, Wright Air Development Center; Chief Space Development Plans Division, Hq USAF; and Deputy for Ballistic Re-entry Systems and Minuteman, SAMSO. General Schultz is a graduate of Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.
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