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Abstract: Throughout military history, soldiers have searched for new technology and new weapons that would give them a decisive advantage over their enemies. Some of these inventions -- the atomic-powered airplane, for example -- were met with great enthusiasm at first, but were quickly discarded and forgotten after their limitations became obvious. But other weapons ended up profoundly changing the nature of warfare. During the early 1970s, an Army physicist, Dr. William McCorkle, Jr., envisioned a weapon that he believed would be as revolutionary as the longbow, the repeating rifle, or the tank. He called the invention the Fiber Optic Guided Missile, or "FOG-M," a remote-controlled anti-tank system that he felt would neutralize Soviet military superiority in Central Europe. Inventing a weapon does not mean it will be built, however. McCorkle's ten-year quest to persuade the Army to buy FOG-M led him through half a dozen agencies, Congress, and ultimately the highest levels of the Pentagon.
Learning Objective: This case examines the ways in which inventors seek to sell their ideas to government, and the ways in which government agencies, in turn, respond to technological innovations that challenge traditional bureaucratic categories and missions.