2017 Research, Development, Test & Evaluation of Advanced/Defense Technology

Font size  SML

Register update notification mail Add to favorite lecture list
Academic unit or major
Graduate major in Technology and Innovation Management
Ikegami Masako 
Course component(s)
Day/Period(Room No.)
Course number
Academic year
Offered quarter
Syllabus updated
Lecture notes updated
Language used
Access Index

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

 Active in-class participation (30%)
 Oral presentation offering a critical evaluation of assigned readings (30%)
 Final essay (40%)

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. Several topics will be introduced briefly including a selected number of the topics that will be covered in detail in the lectures to follow.
Class 2 Defense Technology Development and the Military-Industrial Complex It will discuss how programs start and how political support is built in Congress and how funding is sustained for even programs that make little progress. 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 Several high-profile defense acquisition programs in the past two decades have suffered from challenges in transitioning from concept development in the laboratory to the battlefield experiencing schedule and cost overruns and sometimes even termination, the ABL program for instance, from inability to meet performance requirement. This lecture will discuss how the military has tried to address the challenge without much success by introducing such processes as the evolutionary and spiral acquisition. On the other hand, the Congressional overseers like GAO have suggested that the military use Technology Readiness Levels for the better measurement of progress in systems development. The lecture will cover the Pentagon’s attempts at changing how system requirements are defined and new technology is introduced rapidly during program execution. 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. Contrasts with between commercial and DOD systems will be highlighted.
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. From the early days of the second world war academics participated in the Manhattan project to develop the atomic bomb, the radar, missile guidance systems, etc. Today, they are heavily involved in the development of artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and cyber defense, for example. The lecture will focus primarily on engineering and the physical sciences, but also make brief references to social sciences like political science, anthropology and psychology. The U.S. military directs approximately $5 billion every year to the universities for academic research in RDT&E of Advanced/Defense Technology 3 various disciplines. While the bulk of the research funding is directed toward engineering and the physical sciences, the Pentagon has also for years funded controversial research programs in anthropology and psychology. Wll examine in depth the huge dependence of the universities on the military for certain areas of research. It will highlight ongoing debates, respectively, within the anthropology association on the human terrain program, and the psychology association on interrogation. Military research at universities in Japan, which was nearly nonexistent under the Peace Constitution, is reportedly beginning to return.
Class 5 Case Studies of Successes and Failures of the Acquisition Process The US military has developed over the years many successful advanced weapon systems such as stealth aircraft, cruise missiles, precision guided weapons, combat drones, and the GPS. However, it has also 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." Speaking to veterans of wars in Vietnam and Iraq, as well as military experts and journalists, the film discusses 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 with Pizza and drinks so that we can have a discussion following the screening.
Class 7 Defense R&D: Are we getting the bang for the buck? The rationale for continuing huge military spending after the Word War II ended was two-fold. One was to sustain the economic boom generated by the wartime military spending and the other was to maintain the technological edge in its nuclear and conventional over the Soviet Union as the Cold War heated up. The latter resulted in the large spending on the RDT&E, which continues to this date. Large spending on science and technology also pushed innovation in the defense in areas like microelectronics, communications, and computing. Some of this technology also made huge impacts in the public arena. Digital computers, the Internet, the global positioning system are but some popular examples. Yet, the innovation has slowed significantly although funding has not. This lecture will explore in depth if there is really an innovation deficit 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. The question of whether military-funded research should be carried out at universities is not new. Students and faculty alike in famous academic institutions like the MIT and UC Berkley, for instance, hotly debated it during the Vietnam War and once again during the debate on SDI. In Germany, a number of universities adopted what is known as the Civil Clause, which prevents faculty from taking funding from the military. The other question is what I faced. If one finds that there are technical problems in a project that are being covered up from becoming public knowledge, what should one do? I was the technical leader of the GAO investigation that found that the lead contractor in the ground-based missile defense program had falsified results of a $100-million test. This finding was unfortunately covered up in the report issued by GAO following our investigation. This case, including the technical details of the system, would be discussed in detail to highlight the dilemma.
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 (30%)
 Oral presentation offering a critical evaluation of assigned readings (30%)
 Final essay (40%)

Related courses

  • 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 was a Senior Defense Analyst at the Government Accountability Office for a number of years before joining the MIT . Do not miss this rare opportunity!

* Those undergraduate students who are interested in this course are advised to register for, "XES.A301: Introduction to Research, Development, Test & Evaluation of Advanced/Defense Technology", to complete the course.

Page Top