Friday, July 20, 2007

The Department of Defense Holds Contests Instead of Innovates


The United States Department of Defense is offering $1 Million to anyone who can lighten the current backpack for U.S. troops. The current backpack is bogged down mainly by 20 – 40 pounds of batteries to power all the latest tech gadgets they carry. These outweigh ammunition in most cases, which speaks volumes. To win the money you have to design a powerpack that weighs 8.8 pounds or less and carry enough power for 4 days. Second prize is $500,000 and third is $250,000.

Throw in the cost to have the 5 day event in the fall and you are easily over $2 Million for this project. Why couldn't you put that money into salaries for people to work on this stuff full time? Why do we as a society covet the story of the amateur winning the big prize, toiling away in his garage for weeks? Why don't we adore making this a part of the actual design process? Is it that is seems like wasteful spending because you can't connect the dots easily on spreadsheets for your annual reports?

I blogged about NASA doing this at the beginning of the month. Seeing the Department of Defense do it didn’t sit right with me in a time of war. We should have people innovating and being paid for it full-time, especially while there is such a high cost for not doing it. Why aren't we dedicating resources to this instead of holding contests for amateurs? How many people are we eliminating from this design process because they have to have a job and can't work on this in their spare time? This may be the price we are paying for American Idolatry.

UPDATE: The winner announced today. So where does innovation come from for the U.S. Military? Germany! Read all about it

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