Technology, Organizational Design, and Future Jointness

By Professor Robert Farley

Major Cavanaugh’s post brings to the fore one of the most critical issues facing any defense establishment: the relationship between technology and organizational design. How does the way in which we structure our military organizations affect military technological innovation? The short answer is that institutions both shape and manage technology.  The services set priorities for procurement and innovation that lead to technological transformation.  This is as it should be; specialists in land, air, and naval warfare know what they need, and should have a hand in pushing the defense industrial sector in the right direction. At the same time, organizations have to respond to disruptive, unanticipated technological change.  Military success over the last century had depended on having the capacity to manage such change.

Yet we struggle with major reform to our institutions; bureaucracies have ways of protecting themselves, often by mobilizing political influence. Institutions are good at pointing out how important they are, and what critical roles they play in existing structures. But granting that the technological environment in which we plan for and fight war in the future will differ considerably from the environment that exists today means that we have to consider how our institutional arrangements will shape the future. 

Read More