And if you look into technology that transitions from Defense into the civilian economy, you'll find quite a bit. Right now we have defense employees working on quantum teleportation, neural computing chips, all kinds of power and energy technologies and so on. Companies come in, or start up, and do good business making products and services off things the government paid for. ENIAC was an Army program to figure out artillery azimuths. GPS, the internet, etc. It still goes on all the time.
Your largess is stunning.
On another note, social security becomes a de facto retirement plan because the economy needs people to spend pretty much all their damn money to fuel the ever-upward corporate spiral. Then government raids the social security pot to pay for the other side of the ever-upward spiral. The problem is we can't settle for a sustainable reality. If you owned a company employing 10, 20 or 30 thousand people turning $500 million in profits with a solid outlook for that to continue -- but not grow -- for the next 50 years, Wall Street would ignore you. It's all about potential for growth, not actual performance. Then they tie executive pay to stock performance and boom! Stupidity is mandatory.
As I've noted elsewhere, it's complicated, much more complicated than you're representing it here. Nobody else researches specific areas that the military has to. Elsewhere I used the under-body explosion example, but there are many others. Let's say, RPGs. They hit a vehicle in a very specific way. Who is going to research materials and construction methods to best defend occupants against RPG strikes? Who is going to have a person on staff with a doctorate who is a, if not the, world expert on uniforms and how they interact with the human body, equipment, vehicles, etc.? Only the Army (with benefit to the other services, of course).
I'm not saying earmarks don't happen. It's not my area (I do public affairs for the Army RD&E command, not budget), so I couldn't say without doing some research that I'm not going to do on a Thursday night while on vacation. However, we have several systems set up to respond to requests from the field, requests from doctrine writers (who write how the Army should work, hence what capabilities it will need), and others. We even take troop designs and get them manufactured. We now have a shop in Afghanistan where soldiers can pull up and get things made for a specific purpose. And we have guys researching things that might be needed 10 or 20 years from now.
Full disclosure: I do public affairs for the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.
I can't speak for the other services, but the Army created RDECOM about 8 years ago to make RD&E work better for Soldiers. One big task is having what they call a balanced portfolio that spans basic research through engineering work. The command has more than 16,000 people, more than 10,000 of them civilian engineers or scientists. A lot of smart people put a lot of thought into this. It is not transparent, even to me, for a lot of reasons. Some of it is secret, but some of it is just so particular to the military, or even one part of the Army. For example, under-body explosions. There's a lot of research into head-on collisions, etc., but who else would need to study how to protect people from an under-body explosion? And how transparent is that, and should that be, to people outside the military? And who else is going to work on a material that might be suitable for that kind of thing? And how, pre-Iraq/Afghanistan, do you see that coming as the next big threat or design a research program that can respond to something like that which no one sees coming?
Which is not to say none of our research transfers into the civilian economy, for example flexible display technology, robotics and nanotechnology. We're working on moving our basic overview onto the web, but it shows we have more than 1,000 partnerships of one kind or another with everything from universities and foreign defense agencies to individual researchers and at least one time two guys in a garage.
As it happens, the Army just finished another study on how RD&E should work. The results should be out soon and may mean some level of reorganization. Stay tuned if you're interested.