ACI Journal Articles


Disruptive Innovations to Help Protect against Future Threats

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

USMA Research Unit Affiliation

Army Cyber Institute

Publication Date



This paper addresses the current U.S. Offset Strategy that focuses almost exclusively on breakthrough innovations to compensate for the smaller conventional military forces the U.S. has in relation to the size of the militaries of its potential adversaries. It explains the four different categories of innovation (breakthrough, disruptive, incremental, and sustaining) and articulates that while incremental and sustaining tend to be the most successful types of innovation, breakthrough and disruptive are the most appropriate for an offset strategy. Yet the notable absence of disruptive innovations in the current U.S. Defense Innovation Initiative is a significant shortcoming that needs to be brought to the attention of U.S. leaders and decision-makers. Not only can disruptive innovations increase the odds of bringing about a successful offset strategy, they also help to reduce strategic risk and surprise. Because they tend to be cheaper and less technological complex than breakthrough innovations, disruptive innovations are a logical fit for a resource constrained environment. U.S. military history is filled with numerous instances of how it came up with disruptive innovations to outwit its adversaries. Unfortunately, U.S. military history is also filled with instances of when technologically inferior adversaries have developed their own disruptive innovations to challenge U.S. military advantages. By studying both these sides, the audience gets a clearer understanding of just how impactful disruptive innovations are on the battlefields of tomorrow.

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