2018 Introduction to Research, Development, Test & Evaluation of Advanced/Defense Technology

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School of Environment and Society
Ikegami Masako  Ghoshroy Subrata 
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Intensive ()  
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Course description and aims

This course will discuss various aspects of the defense science and technology enterprise in the United States. It spans the whole length and the breadth of what is known as the military-industrial complex – the Pentagon, Congress, defense contractors, and universities. Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) is a category in the defense budget that captures all program activities necessary for developing weapon systems like the F-35 joint strike aircraft, or the THAAD antimissile system, for example. The U.S. Government spends over $70 billion each year in RDT&E for activities that start with basic and applied research, and systems development, and finally end with testing and evaluation of weapons systems. The systems that pass operational tests are then transferred to one of the military services for procurement in large quantities from defense contractors like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, etc.

Student learning outcomes

The objective of the course is to provide the student with a broad understanding of how the U.S. set up a highly successful organization to develop state-of-the art weapons systems after the end of World War II. While it worked well throughout the Cold War, the system has faltered in recent years with vast cost overruns and performance failures. The course will discuss with examples of specific weapons systems that failed and analyze both the technical and other reasons that plague the current process.


defense science and technology, Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E), military-industrial complex, procurement decision-making, policy analysis, management of technology

Competencies that will be developed

Specialist skills Intercultural skills Communication skills Critical thinking skills Practical and/or problem-solving skills

Class flow

NOTE! Lectures and seminar-style discussions; Lectures will be held as an intensive course, 2 classes (16:50~18:20 & 18:30~20:00) each on four Mondays (Nov. 19, Nov. 26, Dec. 3, Dec. 10; In addition, wrap-up and oral presentation may be set, if necessary, in due course no later than Dec. 14).
 Active in-class participation (50%)
 Oral presentation offering a critical evaluation of assigned readings (25%)
 Final essay (25%)

Course schedule/Required learning

  Course schedule Required learning
Class 1 Introduction to Defense Technology Development In this lecture the participants will be introduced to the various aspects of the RDT&E enterprise.
Class 2 Defense Technology Development and the Military-Industrial Complex The lecture will cover in depth the defense budget, focus in particular on the RDT&E, and discuss the Congressional appropriations process. It will elaborate on how politics plays a huge part in decision-making the role of the military-industrial complex using the Star Wars and the missile defense programs that followed as illustrative examples.
Class 3 Challenges to Technology Transition from the Laboratory to the Battlefield The lecture will cover the Pentagon’s attempts at changing how system requirements are defined and new technology is introduced rapidly during program execution, by referring to the ABL (Airborne Laser system) program as a failed example. The session will also discuss the concept of the so-called “Technology Readiness Levels” (TRL), which were originally developed at NASA, and also the methodology of “knowledge-based” management of technology development by measurement of TRL levels.
Class 4 The Pentagon and the Universities The universities are an integral part of the military-industrial complex. This session we will explore the relationship between the universities and the U.S. military, which began at the start of the Cold War, but continues a quarter century after it ended.
Class 5 Case Studies of Successes and Failures of the Acquisition Process The US military has faltered in many large acquisition programs, especially since the end of the Cold War. One or more of the failed programs would be discussed for the purposes of lessons learned. The list of programs include the missile defense programs, laser weapons like the Airborne Laser, military satellites, and the Osprey helicopter/aircraft, and ongoing saga of the F-35, joint fighter aircraft.
Class 6 Screening of the film “WHY WE FIGHT?”  Since World War II, the United States has been almost constantly involved in combat, active participants in a string of wars fought entirely on foreign shores. Eugene Jarecki's documentary, which won a Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, examines this phenomenon thoughtfully exploring what Eisenhower called "the business of war",defense spending, foreign policy and the military-industrial complex. The film runs for 1 hour 38 minutes If students agree, this has to be 2.5-hour session so that we can have a discussion following the screening.
Class 7 Defense R&D: Are we getting the bang for the buck? This lecture will explore in depth if there is really an innovation deficit (he innovation has slowed significantly although funding has not) and what may be some of the reasons for it. Among the factors that could be considered are the following: the structural problems of the RDTE budget, erosion of technical expertise in the government, disappearance of high-quality laboratories like the Bell Labs, and the changes in the defense marketplace after the end of the Cold War.
Class 8 The social responsibility of scientists and engineers in defense R&D Here I will discuss the moral and ethical questions faced by engineers and scientists who work in defense-related research drawing from my own experience of having worked in this field for twenty years before quitting and eventually blowing the whistle about technical fraud in the missile defense program.
Class 9 Oral presentation and Wrap-up discussion Oral presentation and Wrap-up discussion


To be announced. Articles and book chapters off-prints will be distributed via OCW as handouts (supplementary documents).

Reference books, course materials, etc.

To be announced. Articles and book chapters off-prints will be distributed via OCW as handouts (supplementary documents).

Assessment criteria and methods

 Active in-class participation (50%)
 Oral presentation offering a critical evaluation of assigned readings (25%)
 Final essay (25%)

Related courses

  • TIM.C532 : Research, Development, Test & Evaluation of Advanced/Defense Technology
  • TIM.C510 : Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Analysis I
  • TIM.C511 : Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Analysis II

Prerequisites (i.e., required knowledge, skills, courses, etc.)

All welcome!


This is a special course by a specially invited lecturer, Mr. Ghoshroy from MIT, basically only this year. As a laser technology engineer by training, Mr. Ghoshroy served as a Senior Defense Analyst at the U.S. Congress Senate and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for a number of years before joining the MIT .
Do not miss this rare opportunity!

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