The U.S. military spent over $42 billion in research and development in 2018. Though much of this funding tends to go to weapons programs, a great deal of military research often ends up also having civilian applications.
Many of the products that ended up having civilian applications began with the military contracting out the development of a specific military application. One example is the modern GPS network. It was developed in the 1970s by Department of Defense (DoD) researchers and was built over the following two decades. The technology, initially designed as a guidance and tracking system for fighter planes, boats, and missiles, today is used in many civilian applications from personal to commercial aircraft navigation systems. Some of these products are still made in the United States.
In fact, some of the most widely used commercial products today were originally developed for the purpose of defending the country, or were a byproduct of military research. 24/7 Wall St. identified 15 commercial products that are direct result of military research.
The United States is the world’s largest economy and it spends by far the most on its military. This includes large investments in research and development, whether through the military’s own research agencies or through contracts with private companies — known as the military-industrial complex. This relationship is still going strong, as there are dozens of companies making more than $1 billion from military contracts.