3rd February 2014: Military/industrial drone 'investment agenda' » 2014 » Mobbsey's Musings » Paul Mobbs/MEI » FRAW

The coming military/industrial drone 'investment agenda'

Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations and Research, 3rd February 2014

MOD Aberporth Range
The US DOD's future vision for drone technology!

It's noticeable – after following the tech & policy journals for almost two years now – that in the US the drones issue has shifted from being a "military/defence" agenda to an "industrial investment" agenda. That in turn is bringing with it a more aggressive posturing in policy circles due to the "benefits" (jobs, "growth", etc.) that it is perceived to bring.

We got the DoD's "roadmap" for drones on Christmas Eve (it's a chore I know, and it's gruesome, but read this report!)

Two weeks ago the US army formally announced it wanted to replace a quarter of its military personnel with "unmanned ground vehicles" – replacing a quarter of the troops with machines by 2030.

Now the 'high level' think tank, The Center for a New American Security – set up as a bridge between the US industrial, military and political lobby – has just waded in bringing the industrial lobby's take on the issue. [The CNAS website available here].

Last week they released a report, "20YY: Preparing for War in the Robotic Age", which tries to put the industrial production spin on the drone issue (this is scarier than the DoD's drones policy report!). The best example of how this lobby group is pushing the business investment/corporate welfare argument is on page 35 of the report:

"Unlike the Cold War – when government research and development spending spurred most military innovations (e.g., stealth, precision navigation and timing, satellites, computer networking, etc.) – the technical enablers of the 20YY regime (e.g., autonomy, big data, additive manufacturing, miniaturization, etc.) are largely driven by the commercial world."

I.e., the report basically says that the commercial world is already doing this work – all the military needs to do is buy this stuff "off the peg" from the companies concerned. So, to a level that has not existed with traditional "dual use" industrial/military and nuclear technology, we're seeing a merger of industrial technology and military power and surveillance; or, perhaps more accurately, the privatisation/corporatisation of the functions of the military – as has already been seen with drone systems to date in Iraq/Afghanisatan.

With the announcement in the past week of the French-UK collaboration on drone development, as well as proposals for a "European club" for drone producers (rather like the EADS/Airbus group), it looks like the European tech manufacturers are being drawn into this whole corporate subsidy agenda too.

In my youth I used to read a lot of sci-fi, and I've been working with electronics and computers for almost forty years. Reading through the policy documents coming out over recent months I think the public have cause to be seriously concerned about where this is going!.

As I said in a talk recently: if your bank's computer goes wrong then you can't use your plastic card; if the upcoming 'driverless cars' go wrong then a few people get hurt; but if the "Sword" unmanned ground vehicle malfunctions, with its 500-round magazine 7.62mm M240 machine gun, then we're talking a whole different level of human impact!

If you want know more see the Free Range Activism Website's "Peace and Anti-Militarism" area – http://www.fraw.org.uk/library/peace.html

I'm currently developing a 2-hour presentation/workshop which tries to explain the "why" and the "how" of the political and policy process behind these decisions, rather than focussing solely on the hardware as so often seems the case with coverage of drone issues.

I hope to have this ready from late March/April, if anyone would like my to come and present something on this – although, it would be extremely helpful if those asking my to do so could provide some funding for each event, as no one is supporting any of the work I'm doing around this issue at present.