A 21st Century Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for America’s National Security

Photo courtesy of DARPA

Photo courtesy of DARPA

By Steve Fetter and Chris Fall

Leadership in science and technology is the foundation of U.S. national security. While our national security scientists and engineers continue to develop and field amazing technologies, much of the current national security science and technology (S&T) enterprise was built several decades ago to address the threats of the cold war. Today, emerging technologies are creating the potential for new, asymmetric, and unpredictable threats in areas such as cybersecurity, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence and autonomy, and climate change. In order to address these emerging threats, our national security science, technology, and innovation enterprise must become more agile, responsive, and resilient.

To help address those emerging threats, today the Administration released a new report from the National Science and Technology Council titled “A 21st Century Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for America’s National Security.” The strategy calls for the modernization of the national security S&T enterprise to ensure:

  • The ability to access the best talent in the world for the national security mission;
  • Proactive and collaborative investments in specialized facilities necessary for critical national security science and technology needs;
  • Intelligent management of the business of national security science and technology, and associated risks, to achieve the best outcomes as an enterprise; and
  • Adoption of transformative frameworks and innovative practices from the private sector, where it makes sense to do so for the national security mission.

“To defend our country, it is essential that we continue to foster excellence in science  and technology, and promote innovation,” said Stephen Welby, assistance  secretary of defense for research and engineering and co-chair of the NSCTC  committee on homeland and national security. “This strategy provides a deliberate framework for focusing our best research and engineering efforts in the service of national security.”

The national security science, technology, and innovation enterprise must be able to meet the rapidly evolving threats of today’s world while also establishing and maintaining strategic partnerships, employing swiftly changing technologies, coping with diminishing resources, and finding ways to benefit from accelerating globalization.

With this strategy as a guide, the Administration will continue working toward a vibrant national security S&T enterprise for the 21st century that is agile, resilient, and capable of delivering technological advantages to the United States. Working with Federal agencies and Congress, we will continue efforts to strengthen and revitalize the foundational capabilities of the national security enterprise – diverse human capital, quality infrastructure, modern management systems, multi-sector partnerships, and strong research programs – to help provide the very best science and technology base for our national security.

Steve Fetter is Principal Assistant Director for National Security and International Affairs at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Chris Fall is Assistant Director for Defense Programs at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

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