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Defense R&D in the Anti-Terrorist Era

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  • Trajtenberg, Manuel

Abstract

This Paper seeks to analyse the nature of the terrorist threat following 9/11, and to explore the implications for defense R&D policy. First, it reviews the defining trends of defense R&D since the Cold War, and brings in pertinent empirical evidence: the US accumulated during the 1990s a defense R&D stock 10 times larger than any other country, and almost 30 times larger than Russia. Big weapon systems, key during the Cold War but of dubious significance since then still figure prominently, commanding 30% of current defense R&D spending, versus just about 13% for intelligence and anti-terrorism. The second part of the Paper examines the nature of the terrorist threat, focusing on the role of uncertainty, the lack of deterrence, and the extent to which security against terrorism is (still) a public good. I develop for that purpose a simple model of terrorism, cast in a nested discrete choice framework. Two strategies are considered: fighting terrorism at its source, and protecting individual targets, which entails a negative externality. Contrary to the traditional case of national defense, security against terrorism becomes a mixed private/public good. A key result of the model is that the government should spend enough on fighting terrorism at its source, so as to nullify the incentives of private targets to invest in their own security. Intelligence emerges as the key aspect of the war against terrorism and, accordingly, R&D aimed at providing advanced technological means for intelligence is viewed as the cornerstone of defense R&D. This entails developing computerized sensory interfaces, and increasing the ability to analyse vast amounts of data. Both have direct civilian applications, and therefore the required R&D is mostly ‘dual use’. Indeed, there is already a private market for these systems, with a large number of players. R&D programmes designed to preserve this diversity and to encourage further competition may prove beneficial both for the required R&D, and for the economy at large.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4509.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4509

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Keywords: defense R&D; dual-use; intelligence; public goods; terrorism;

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References

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  1. Lichtenberg, Frank R., 1995. "Economics of defense R&D," Handbook of Defense Economics, in: Keith Hartley & Todd Sandler (ed.), Handbook of Defense Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 15, pages 431-457 Elsevier.
  2. Cowan, Robin & Foray, Dominique, 1995. "Quandaries in the economics of dual technologies and spillovers from military to civilian research and development," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 851-868, November.
  3. Kenneth Arrow, 1962. "Economic Welfare and the Allocation of Resources for Invention," NBER Chapters, in: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, pages 609-626 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Enders, Walter & Sandler, Todd, 1995. "Terrorism: Theory and applications," Handbook of Defense Economics, in: Keith Hartley & Todd Sandler (ed.), Handbook of Defense Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 9, pages 213-249 Elsevier.
  5. Ian Ayres & Steven D. Levitt, 1998. "Measuring Positive Externalities From Unobservable Victim Precaution: An Empirical Analysis Of Lojack," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(1), pages 43-77, February.
  6. Kobi Kagan & Asher Tishler & Avi Weiss, 2005. "On The Use Of Terror Weapons Versus Modern Weapon Systems In An Arms Race Between Developed And Less Developed Countries," Defence and Peace Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(5), pages 331-346.
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Cited by:
  1. Berman, Eli & Laitin, David D., 2008. "Religion, terrorism and public goods: Testing the club model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 1942-1967, October.

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