Critical Technologies:  The United States Department of Defense Efforts to Shape Technology Development After the Cold War - A Discourse and Network Analysis

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Virginia Tech

Each year the Department of Defense spends over $10 billion on its science and technology development efforts. While deemed an investment by proponents (and beneficiaries) technology development programs are particularly vulnerable in times of budget cuts. As the government moves forward with efforts to reduce spending the Department of Defense will be pressed to sustain current levels of spending on technology efforts. This situation is similar to the post-Cold War phase in defense planning when savings in spending were sought as a peace dividend. This dissertation examines the Department of Defense efforts during 1989-1992 to define certain technologies as critical to national security. Inherent in the effort to identify critical technologies was the desire to articulate technology ideology; to establish asymmetries of power and resources; and to patrol the boundaries of policy and responsibility. The questions are: What are the ideologies associated with technology development planning? What are the discursive mechanisms used to secure and reinforce power? And, what evidence of boundary work and network construction emerges from the examination? First, I distill from four years of defense technology planning documentation the explicit ideologies, the ideologies masked in metaphor, and the discourse strategies used to secure and sustain power. Following the deconstruction of the discursive elements I use Science and Technology Studies tools including boundary work, boundary objects, the Social Construction of Technology, and network theory, to further understand the heterogeneous process of defense technology development planning. The tools help explain the mechanisms by which elements of Department of Defense technology development form a connected structure. Finally, the examination yields a spherical network model for innovation that addresses the weaknesses of prior innovation network models. I conclude that in the face of uncertain budgets, technology planning relies upon ideology, power strategies, and boundary-work to build a network that protects funding and influence. In the current budget climate it will be interesting to see if the strategies are resurrected. The examination should be of interest to both the Science and Technology Studies scholar and the policy practitioner. And hopefully, the review will stimulate further examination and debate.

Defense Science and Technology, Critical Technologies, Discourse Analysis