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America’s Military Is Choking on Old Technology

Stephen P. Rodriguez co-wrote an article in Foreign Policy about the rate of adoption and integration of new technologies in the military:

In a seminal 1958 article, Edward Katzenbach wrote about how militaries had been determined to maintain large horse cavalry formations well into the 20th century — “a capacity for survival that border[ed] on the miraculous” — despite overwhelming evidence from World War I that a cavalry charge on the modern battlefield was ludicrous. In the words of the last U.S. Army chief of cavalry, who insisted on maintaining tactical horses in the face of armored vehicles, “When better roller skates are made, Cavalry horses will wear them.”

The U.S. military has come a long way since then — but there’s still reason to believe it may be willing to put shiny new roller skates on horses. It’s no secret that the Department of Defense is working to keep pace with rapid technology developments in the private sector. But the debate has focused mostly on the acquisition of technology. There is a paucity of discussion around the converse: innovative ways of discarding technology. But, absent a concerted commitment, dismantling the obsolete aspects of America’s existing force will likely be a larger challenge than building the force of tomorrow.