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Big government projects: which are successful and why?

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1 Author(s)
Bohn, J.G. ; King of Prussia, PA, USA

From time to time, the U.S. government has initiated a particularly large, ambitious program, not as part of the normal R&D process, which tries to anticipate future needs, but in direct response to an immediate known national need. Such programs began with the identification of a compelling goal, then created and applied knowledge and expertise for the purpose of achieving it. In some cases, this approach led to remarkably successful accomplishments for the United States and at the same time gave a very large impetus to both the application and development of technology. There are two apparent reasons for the technological benefit. First, the suitability of the related research and development was guaranteed by its direct association with the goal, so the problem of agreeing on allocation criteria was avoided. And second, having the stated goal constantly in view made it safer to make larger investments, perform bolder research and development activities, and generally surpass in scope and speed the accomplishments that would have resulted from incremental, ad hoc activities. It is natural to ask what factors made these programs successful. One characteristic of these successful U.S. programs is that they call on the utmost creative capability of the nation to accomplish a task of great importance to the country. The author considers the history of these programs, the manner in which they were accomplished, how each one was conceived, how it was conducted, and how it advanced the state of society through technology

Published in:

Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:17 ,  Issue: 3 )

Date of Publication:

Fall 1998

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