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Vitalizing civil-military technology cooperation

By 황장진

Published : March 16, 2011 - 18:50

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Defense R&D should come under National Science and Technology Council to expand scope of development


This is the 43rd in a series of articles introducing the Korean government’s R&D policies. Researchers at the Science & Technology Policy Institute will explain Korea’s R&D initiatives aimed at addressing major socioeconomic problems facing the nation. ― Ed.
Hong Sung-bum Hong Sung-bum

In 1990, the Clinton administration executed the “dual-use paradigm” as a solution to the changes in the international environment. The idea behind this new paradigm was to find ways to deal with “technological warfare” and the new major winds that had developed after the Cold War, by diverting a certain portion of massive R&D investments in defense to the dual-use technology sector.

This would benefit industrial competitiveness and provide an institutional mechanism and channel that would help commercialize the technologies that were developed in the defense sector and help the private sector utilize some of these state-of-the-art defense technologies. It was the federal government that took more active measures to boost industrial competitiveness by turning its eyes from the “spin-off paradigm” to the “dual-use paradigm.”

The dual-use paradigm surfaced as an effective measure to deal with changes in the international environment by investing in the “peace dividend” that was generated by the reduction in armaments and the subsequent industrial competitiveness while transferring private technologies from the civil domain to defense R&D for better quality state-of-the-art weapons.

It seemed that an all-out war that ignored the border between the private sector and the military was necessary to win the “technology war,” and it led to focusing on the development of dual-use technologies that would maintain the national defense as well as heighten industrial competitiveness. Technological cooperation in the dual-use paradigm can be divided into three categories: “spin-up” refers to the development of technologies that are shared by two parties to improve national security and enhance industrial competitiveness; “spin-on” refers to transferring existing private technologies to the defense sector; and “spin-off” is the other way around ― transferring existing defense sector technologies to the private sector.

Since 1999, the Korean government has been executing spin-up projects by investing 41.4 billion won in 40 development projects as of 2010. For example, a middle-scale water jet system has been developed that can be used in high-speed boats by the Navy or maritime police; carbon brakes that were developed for military aircraft like the F-16 and T-50 have been modified for use in private vehicles such as Audis or the Hyundai Genesis coupe; and high strength aluminum that was traditionally used for the bodies of K-11 military rifles can now also be used for making inline skates or baseball bats.

Additionally, research is currently underway on very strong and light carbon fiber materials that can be used for weapons or sports equipment and researchers are also working on developing complex communication terminals that support multiple networks, four-legged robots that are based on a wireless network, a hybrid propulsion system for special mission vehicles and a foldable solar-powered generator with long durability.

“Lader Range” was the name of the microwave when it was first introduced to the market because it was invented by a U.S. engineer with Raytheon who was working on radar technology to detect German V2 missiles. Raytheon, being the fifth largest defense contractor and better known as the developer of the Patriot missile, does not refer to itself as a military contractor.

Instead, the company prefers to use a rather long modifier and calls itself a “diversified, globalized and technology-driven company.” As a matter of fact, Raytheon has been making products for air traffic control (ATC) and iridium communication, in addition to a vessel traffic system (VTS), an ultra-red detector for security and rescue purposes, a highway control system, telemedicine products, etc. These are major examples of spin-offs that utilize radar system and military communication technology for the private sector. In Korea, 126 technologies were transferred to private corporations or institutions from 1995 to 2008.

At the same time, an increasing number of private technologies are being used in the military sector. For example, military equipment has been made smaller and lighter by applying state-of-the-art battery technology; CBR (chemical, biological and radiological) technologies were used to develop a CBR detector; and supersonic technology is now used to measure the level of ice that forms on the wings of military aircraft.

Raytheon carried out its military Vax plan in which military computers were replaced with private units that lowered costs and maintained performance at the same time. Raytheon has made additional dramatic cost reductions by eliminating more than 300 commercial parts and software that are used by the private sector for the same procedures.

Under the Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) program and technology adaptation procedure, the U.S. is utilizing advanced private technologies to develop weapon systems. Korea has also introduced and is now operating the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program.

Transferring technologies between the private and military sectors has been going on at the enterprise level on a consistent basis. The changes in the international science technology environment, however, required more than enterprise-level cooperation and this is the reason why governments implemented the dual-use strategy.

In order to boost national competitiveness, an organic network between systems of defense and military is necessary, such as the strategic commercialization of defense research, utilizing low-cost private technologies for the defense sector, and developing technologies for both the military and private sectors.

There have been radical changes around the Korean Peninsula. Since North Korea armed itself with nuclear weapons, protecting our nation on our own has become the most pressing concern such that increasing the investment in national defense and increasing its effectiveness have become urgent national issues. 
The Army’s K-9 self-propelled artillery fire during an exercise in Yeoncheon, Gangwon Province. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald) The Army’s K-9 self-propelled artillery fire during an exercise in Yeoncheon, Gangwon Province. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

The recent incident with the South Korean warship Cheonan revealed the need for a repair crisis management system and the role of science and technology. Now is the time for Korea to acquire the capability to detect threats early, develop systems to warn, prevent and defend, find causes, handle incidents and achieve normalization.

Here are some of the issues that Korea may face when it comes to technological cooperation between the private and military sectors. In the future warfare, you have to spot your enemy before they spot you, make a swift decision and precisely hit the target by utilizing your assets.

Korea’s military capability, which ranks 11th or 78 percent of that of advanced nations, is found to be lacking capabilities in reconnaissance, command communication and aerospace engineering, which will be essential in future warfare. This is because Korea’s world class private IT technologies have not been effectively used for military purposes for a long period of time.

Another issue is that investment in defense R&D is limited in that it seems difficult to increase the technological capability of the military in a short period of time. Although the military budget has increased continuously since 2007 and the budget allocation for improving the country’s defense capability is increasing, the increase of defense R&D is rather weak.

According to the Mid-Term Financial Requirement in R&D (2010~2014), defense R&D is expected to shrink from 13.2 percent in 2009 to 11.9 percent in 2014. More importantly, the budget for core technology development (fundamental, application/test development, dual-use, etc.) is merely 257.6 billion won or 14 percent.

The pure R&D investment, except for fixed costs including personnel operation and facility investment, was 230 billion won as of 2010 and 80 percent of this is being used for developing systems. Therefore, the most important part of technological cooperation is linking the two sectors so that national R&D projects in the private sector can efficiently be used for military technologies (core technology or parts).

The third issue is the weak interface between the two parties due to a non-continuous technology innovation system. From the very beginning of planning for national science and technology, there have not been enough efforts to connect defense R&D with other departments.

A central authority needs to be set up to control the technological assets of the nation, and it is true that since most of the joint R&D projects are led by the military, there are limitations on the private sector to contribute their technological capabilities to the project.

Fourth, most of the defense information, including defense R&D planning, existing technologies, etc, are classified and it is impossible for the private sector to access this information. When a defense technology plan is made, private technologies are not often utilized because not many private enterprises participate in defense technology development.

Fifth, the technological standards and specifications are different between the two sectors.

Sixth, two major reasons why the results of dual-use technology research are not applied to the development of weapon systems are: 1) the military’s development period is much longer than that of the private sector, and 2) the results are not easily used for the development of weapon systems that are executed under long-term defense plans. Therefore, it is necessary for both parties to work closely from the beginning stage of forecasting and making long-term defense strategies all the way through to the actual development of the system.

Seventh, there is also the issue of not enough motivation for both parties to actively transfer their technologies. The procedures are quite complicated and assessment systems are not in place. When military defense technologies are transferred to the private sector, there are limitations in providing incentives.

There are ways to stimulate technological cooperation between the military and private sectors. First, build a governance of technological cooperation between the two parties. Defense R&D should be included in the work scope of the National Science & Technology Council (NSTC), which should conduct a general analysis on private-military research development and support defense R&D as well.

The Dual Use Technology Center(DUTC), which is now responsible for dual-use technology developments, should be transferred to the NSTC to dramatically increase its workforce and expertise and execute developments in mid- and long-term K-DARPA (tentative name) format.

Second, there should be legal and institutional support for building an integrated system of national and defense R&D. In order to stimulate dual-use businesses, the Dual-Use Technology Development Promotion Law should be widely extended, a dual-use technological cooperation promotion law and dual-use technological cooperation promotion law enforcement ordinance should be created, defense science and technology should be included in the Total Road Map (TRM) and a five-year mid- and long-term dual-use technology plan should be drawn up and carried out.

Currently, 18 departments have 83 mid- and long-term plans. To produce proper dual-use technology developments, long-term plans (longer than three years) for each department should be linked to national mid-term strategies.

Third, dual-use technology cooperation should be expanded by executing the pan-divisional “D-Super Korea Project (tentative name).” Each department should reorganize their budget plan, put about 3 percent of the budget into dual-use projects (250 billion won), and invest 250 billion won to execute 500 billion won in dual-use technological cooperation projects.

Through mid- and long-term dual-use technology research plans, including the Defense Research Execution Plan, Defense Science and Technology Research Report and Future Technology Forecast 2040, the government should execute 10 projects among the New Concepts (TRL 1-3) including next generation sensors, new concept robots, IT-NT convergence and 22 C-type hydrogen energy.

Fourth, the defense R&D paradigm should be developed to strengthen the interface between the military and private enterprises. In particular, beginning with the stage of identifying the requirements of certain technologies, the connection should be tightened by expanding the channels for private enterprises to join from the beginning of dual-use technology development projects. In other words, it is necessary to strengthen the combat tests for private technologies. Requirements verification committees that consist of professionals from the private sector and the military are required to verify the military’s technology requests.

At the same time, there should be more channels for excellent private technologies to be used in weapons development. In order to strengthen the collaboration of two parties in localizing parts and to stimulate exports of military products, we need to consider Korean Foreign Comparative Testing (KFCT) programs that fit the Korean environment so that military researchers can utilize domestic technologies and products.

Private technologies should be more actively used in the test and assessment stages. The most important piece in the military-private interface is the information in the defense sector. In order to facilitate information flow between the private and military sectors, an information link between patent information sources and the National Science & Technology Information Service (NTIS) should be enhanced.

Fifth, government-funded research institutions should serve as the strategic core of private and military cooperation. When this is achieved, these institutions will play a major role in this field. Government-funded research institutions handle 40 percent (971.8 billion won in 2009) of national R&D. By connecting such institutions with defense R&D, it is expected that an effective foundation for spin-on will be formed. Furthermore, government-funded institutions are often very reliable with confidential information.

By Hong Sung-bum

• Hong Sung-bum is a senior research fellow for the civilmilitary cooperation team of the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI). He received his doctoral degree in public administration from Korea University. His research interests are civil-military technology cooperation, technology transfer and commercialization, and the China innovation system.

• He can be reached at sbhong@stepi.re.kr.