Another View: COTS Technology Helps Drive and Speed Innovation

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June 7, 2017 | Originally published by Date Line: June 7 on

John Keller’s recent thought piece entitled Commodity COTS military technology and its potential threat to military capability and innovation raises some points that beg elaboration. Mr. Keller”s piece, which appeared online on 21 Feb. 2017, revolves around the role that COTS technologies and open standards play in delivering innovation and advanced capabilities to the warfighter.

…Mr. Keller stipulates that many positive benefits accrue from the military’s use of COTS, such as lowering costs, improving interoperability, and easing upgrades. In his article, though, Mr. Keller’s main concern is how best to speed the development of superior new capabilities.

Over the two decades since then-Defense Secretary William Perry launched the COTS initiative, we’ve seen an important shift in where these desired leaps in capability actually come from.

Many years ago, functionality came from hardware; that’s no longer the case. Today, functionality is mainly driven by innovations in software. Examples in military and aerospace applications include the complex fast Fourier transform (FFT) software algorithms that drive critical signal, radar, and image processing computation in ever-more-powerful field-programmable gate array (FPGA) and general-purpose graphics processing unit (GPGPU) devices.