In late November 2012, Raytheon announced a $600+ million contract to deliver a national-level Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) system to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Raytheon Network Centric Systems was awarded the deal as a Direct Commercial Sale, which means that the Saudi Ministry of Defense will manage the buy and the implementation project themselves. This is in contrast to the Foreign Military Sale process, which routes contract negotiations and management through a selected department of the US military.
None of this is any kind of magic. Poor command and poor training, coupled with the best C4I system money can buy, just means that your military can watch itself lose conventional fights in near-real time. Having said that, a system that removes some of the “fog of war” can help a force possessing basic or better competence, and national-level C4I is critical to any nation considering missile defense. So, what do the Saudis want?
The US Department of Defense released directive 3000.09 [PDF] stating that autonomous weapon systems are to be designed in a way that ensures humans call the shots:
“Semi-autonomous weapon systems that are onboard or integrated with unmanned platforms must be designed such that, in the event of degraded or lost communications, the system does not autonomously select and engage individual targets or specific target groups that have not been previously selected by an authorized human operator.”
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) think tank ran a series of budgeting simulations last summer that required its participants to make meaningful choices and tradeoffs in a way that tries to preserve strategic interests within budget constraints. Navigating Austerity [PDF]. Their tool was set up to force the consideration of weapon systems and force structure elements to be funded (or not). Too often budget discussions are either too broad (procurement vs. R&D vs. maintenance as if they were lump sums) or too granular and parochial (don’t you dare touch this program in my county!).