Sat.Jan 11, 2020 - Fri.Jan 17, 2020

Innovation and National Security in the 21st Century

Irving Wladawsky-Berger

“Countries that can harness the current wave of innovation, mitigate its potential disruptions, and capitalize on its transformative power will gain economic and military advantages over potential rivals,” was the top finding of the Innovation and National Security Task Force which was commissioned by the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) to assess the current state of US technological innovation. The Task Force noted that leadership in innovation, research and technology since World War II has made the US the most secure and economically prosperous nation on earth. “Today, this leadership position is at risk,” the Task Force warned. Federal support and funding for R&D has stagnated over the past two decades. “Washington has failed to maintain adequate levels of public support and funding for basic science. Federal investment in R&D as a percentage of GDP peaked at 1.86 percent in 1964 but has declined from a little over 1 percent in 1990 to 0.66 percent in 2016.”. The US has successfully responded to technological competition in the past. Sputnik was a tipping point in the space race with the Soviet Union during the cold war, leading to, among other things, a significant increase in the number of graduate student fellowships in STEM disciplines, of which I was personally a beneficiary. Another prominent example is the strong economic competition from Japan in the 1980s, which the US fended off a decade later with our leadership in the Internet and other major digital innovations. But three major forces now threaten America’s economic and national security: global innovation is both accelerating and more disruptive to industries, economies and societies; many national security technologies are now developed and commercialized by private sector global supply chains and markets, making it much more difficult for the US to control their worldwide availability; and. China, - which has emerged as both a US economic partner and strategic competitor, - is significantly increasing its government-led investments in R&D and talent. A major new wave of innovation is characterized by speed, disruption, and scale. Whereas it took 50 years from the invention of the telephone before half of all American homes had one, half of all Americans had a smartphone only five years after its invention. The costs of sequencing the human genome have declined from hundreds of millions of dollars when the genome was first sequenced in 2003 to under $1,000 now. T he rate and pace of business disruption is increasing. The average time companies spent on the S&P 500 declined from 61 years in 1958 to 17 years in 2011. In ten years, it’s expected that only 25% of companies currently on the S&P will still be in it. In addition, AI and automation are leading to major changes in the workforce. A 2017 McKinsey study concluded that while less that less than 10% of occupations will be entirely automated by 2030, 60% of jobs will be transformed through the automation of a significant fraction of their component tasks. The study noted that “while there may be enough work to maintain full employment to 2030 under most scenarios, the transitions will be very challenging - matching or even exceeding the scale of shifts out of agriculture and manufacturing we have seen in the past.”. Let me summarize some of the major findings of the CFR-sponsored Task Force. US decades-old leadership in innovation and R&D is now at risk. The reasons, include decreased federal funding of R&D; a lack of strong education initiatives at home; immigration barriers that make it hard to attract and retain talented foreign students and workers; and trade policies that are alienating previous friends, allies and collaborators. The Defense Department and intelligence communities risk falling behind potential adversaries. Reasons include delays in deploying leading technologies developed by the private sector; challenges in attracting and retaining technology talent; and a “persistent cultural divide between the technology and policymaking communities.”. China is rapidly closing the technological gap with the US. “China is investing significant resources in developing new technologies, and after 2030 it will likely be the world’s largest spender on research and development.” Although it’s not likely to match US capabilities across the board, it’s expected to be a leading power in key technologies including AI, robotics, energy storage and 5G cellular networks. China is a different type of challenger than the old Soviet Union. China is both an economic partner and a strategic competitor. The US and China have both benefited from bilateral investments and trades, and China’s efforts to become a scientific and technological power could help drive global prosperity. However, “Chinese theft of intellectual property (IP) and its market-manipulating industrial policies threaten U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.”. Finally, said the Task Force, the US needs to develop a new innovation strategy based on four key pillars: Restore Federal Funding for Research and Development. Federal funding for R&D should be restored to its historical average, an increase from the present 0.7% of GDP ($146 billion) to 1.1% of GDP ($230 billion). The administration should sponsor moonshot initiatives in key areas like AI, 5G, genomics, and synthetic biology. At the same time, federal and state government should increase investments in universities by up to $20 billion a year for 5 years to support research in areas of pressing economic and national security. Attract and Educate a Science and Technology Workforce. “The White House, Congress, and academia should develop a twenty-first-century National Defense Education Act (NDEA), with the goal of expanding the pipeline of talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. A twenty-first-century NDEA would support up to twenty-five thousand competitive STEM undergraduate scholarships and five thousand graduate fellowships.” Special attention should be given to addressing the underrepresentation of minorities and women in STEM fields. In addition, the US should staple a green card to an advanced diploma, that is, make it easier for foreign graduates of US universities in STEM fields to remain and work in the country, as well as passing legislation to permit talented immigrants to live and work in the US. Support Technology Adoption in the Defense Sector. “ Federal agencies and each of the military services should dedicate between 0.5 and 1 percent of their budgets to the rapid integration of technology,” and “Congress should establish a new service academy, the U.S. Digital Service Academy, and a Reserve Officer Training Corps for advanced technologies (ROTC-T) to foster the next generation of tech talent.”. Bolster and Scale Technology Alliances and Ecosystems. This includes creating technology alliances for the use and control of critical emerging technologies; working with trading partners to promote the secure and free flow of data and the development of common technology standards; encouraging American companies to invest in, export to, and form R&D partnerships with firms around the world; and developing a network of international cooperative science and technology partnerships to apply leading edge technologies to shared global challenges like climate change. “During the early years of the Cold War, confronted by serious technological and military competition from the Soviet Union, the United States invested heavily in its scientific base. Those investments ensured U.S. technological leadership for fifty years. Faced with the rise of China and a new wave of disruptive technological innovation, the country needs a similar vision and an agenda for realizing it. The United States must once again make technological preeminence a national goal.”. Artificial Intelligence Complex Systems Data Science and Big Data Economic Issues Education and Talent Innovation Management and Leadership Political Issues Society and Culture Technology and Strategy

Signifying change

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