I didn’t ask to be put in charge of the BRITE project. In fact, given a choice I almost certainly would have declined. The odd little system looked distinctly underwhelming—and promised to be a blip on my radar, a forgettable job to be passed off to someone else as soon as possible.
Boy was I wrong. My work on the Broadcast-Request Imagery Technology Environment—a system for sending satellite imagery to troops on the ground—changed my thinking about how we develop military gear.
Bottom line, new weaponry doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to involve thousands of people and take years or decades to design.
The 80/20 rule. You can get 80% of the capability for 20% of the cost.
The classic example of a small focused team working on a well defined project with well defined capabilities is the A-12/SR-71 program run by Kelly Johnson in the Lockheed Skunk Works. It’s predecessor, the U-2, and the follow on project, the F-117 were all very successful, especially since they didn’t try to be all things to all people.