TechWatch

Technology Watch Tool

History:  IMC developed TechWatch as part of the Technology Watch Program, a program directed by the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (DCSINT). A full production version of TechWatch was installed in the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) in early 2007.

Purpose:  The TechWatch tool helps Army force developers maintain military overmatch while ensuring prevention of technical surprise for the Future Force through the use of a web-based modeling and simulation software application.

Background: The U.S. Army needed a process for forecasting when a potential enemy might have technologies that would threaten future Army capabilities. Through interviews and collaboration with NGIC analysts, IMC determined there is no available repository of empirical data to aid in formulating long-range technology predictions. Analysts currently make predictions based on experience and research without reference to a storehouse of past predictive data. Even if such a data repository were available, it is unlikely that past predictions based on technological capability could be used as the statistical basis for future predictions without including extensive analytical judgment. The lack of a consistent methodology for deriving predictions hinders the knowledge transfer process when an analyst leaves NGIC. This increases the risk that “knowledge gaps” will occur. The IMC approach to TechWatch was structured to start building a storehouse of predictive experience, while making good use of available analytical judgment, with the ultimate goal of improving long-range time predictions.

Current Solutions: Current methods are developed individually by each analyst; there is no systematic process for performing the forecasts or archiving the data and rationale analysts use. They make “point estimates” that do not contain any information about the level of uncertainty with the estimate. We believe there are currently no other long-range predictive tools that provide the level of decision support offered by TechWatch.

What TechWatch Provides: Tech Watch provides a systematic process and an automated tool to help analysts predict when a country or organization will have a technology at a level of maturity that poses a threat to our forces.  Tech Watch ensures that each analyst uses a repeatable process that has been proven to be valid, and that the data and rationale used to make the estimates are archived for later review and use.  The automated features of the tool allow analysts to rapidly perform parametric studies to assess the impact of uncertainty associated with the many factors that influence technology development. The Tech Watch Tool provides a probability distribution for the time estimate, not just point estimates that are available with current subjective approaches.  Therefore, all time estimates are reported with the level of uncertainty associated with the forecast. 

Tech Watch captures analysts’ views on how technologies mature and how specific countries or organizations acquire technology. This information is available in a concise, easy to understand format for other analysts to use; this is especially important when analysts retire or move to other jobs and they must turn their area of responsibility over to an analyst that is new to a technology or country. 

Tech Watch also provides a mechanism for acquisition managers to better predict how long it will take to develop new, complex systems for our own use.  Errors in time estimates always translate into cost impacts, making it important to have the most reliable estimates on when a technology will be ready for insertion into a new system. For example, if a large defense contractor estimates a new system will be ready in five years and if Tech Watch helps analysts show that the probability of a critical technology being ready in this time frame is only 0.4, then there is a high likelihood that there will be significant schedule and cost overruns.

Where TechWatch Should be Used:  TechWatch should be used by: 1) the Intelligence Community to produce credible, long-term forecasts for when potential adversaries may reach threat-level technology capability, 2) acquisition decision makers in most federal agencies to provide estimates on when technologies will be available and integrated into operational systems, and 3) operational planners who need better time estimates on how long certain operations could take to complete; this help predict how long our own operations might take and how long our adversaries’ operations could take.