Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Sarah E. Light


The intersection between the U.S. military and technological innovation, a “military-innovation nexus,” has led to the genesis of key technologies, including nuclear energy, general computing, GPS, and satellite technology from World War II to the present. However, an evolving innovation context in the twenty-first century, including the leadership of the commercial sector in technology innovation and the resurgence of great power competition, has led to doubts about the ability of the Department of Defense to discover and promote the technological innovations of the future. The Third Offset Strategy was formulated in 2014 in response to these concerns: The offset strategy promulgated reforms to bring the Pentagon and the commercial sector closer together while creating alternative contracting mechanisms for streamlined procurement and prototyping. Using defense biometrics and artificial intelligence as case studies of spin-on innovations adopted by the military, this Article seeks to understand the efficacy of the reforms undertaken under the auspices of the Third Offset Strategy to improve the institutional underpinnings of the U.S. innovation system for national security. I argue that the Third Offset Strategy has allowed the Pentagon to more effectively procure, develop, and field commercial technologies in the twenty-first century, and I conclude by proposing modest recommendations for the successful acquisition of spin-on innovations.


U.S. military, defense innovation, military innovation, spin-on, technology adoption, Department of Defense, Third Offset Strategy, biometrics, artificial intelligence, great power competition, procurement



Date Posted: 20 May 2020


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