Technology and the defense industry: real threats, bad habits, or new (market) opportunities?

Par Renaud Bellais
Technology has been playing a central role in defense spending or arms-producing countries since World War II. Although there has been no major threat or conflict since the 1990s, defense R&D absorbs a large share of military expenditures, as well as public R&D. This technology-centric paradigm results from uncertainties surrounding defense matters and the need to avoid strategic surprises. However, one can wonder whether such a paradigm is still adapted to today’s defense needs. This is a trend strongly driven by the supply side: defense firms have developed a business model that cannot survive without launching new programs, hence a high level of defense R&D. This explains both an overinvestment in technology, resulting in the development of unaffordable technologies or unsustainable performance targets, and the technology-centric model that defense firms favor in side markets like security.
JEL Codes: H56, H57, O32
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