does not win wars or make nations safe. The search for security is
shaped by larger cultural, economic, and political factors and
strategic choices. On the other hand, technology has always been the
handmaiden of national security. Nations always look for innovations
that can offer them competitive advantages over their adversaries.
Innovation will always be a national security "wild card." New
technologies may unleash or accelerate social and cultural changes that
affect how nations protect themselves on battlefields and behind the
Over the course of the 20th century, America's genius
was its capacity to ride above the wave of technological change. That
may not be the case in the future. American prowess is at risk.
Congress will have to play an active role in ensuring that the United
States does not lose its competitive edge.
In 2006, The Heritage
Foundation organized a series of workshops to examine emerging
technologies that have significant implications for national security.
These technologies include nanotechnology, biotechnology, advanced
computing, directed energy, and robotics.
This report reflects
the results of these workshops and additional research by Heritage
scholars exploring the current and future uses of these innovations, as
well as what policy, guidelines, and programs Congress and the
Administration should undertake to ensure that the United States
remains at the forefront of cutting-edge technological development.
Among the key recommendations of this report are that Congress should:
a legislative framework that encourages the development of emerging
technologies; the promotion of research, innovation, and investment;
and the protection of U.S. citizens. Congress should address litigation
and civil liberties protection and environmental and public health
standards. It should, for example, consider expanding the scope of the
SAFETY Act, which provides liability protection for the development
and deployment of homeland security and counterterrorism equipment and
services, to cover innovations that support other national security
missions. Congress should also prompt the Administration to work with
other countries to adopt similar legislation that will facilitate
deploying technologies developed in the U.S. to support national
security missions overseas.
- Implement visa
issuance and management reforms to ensure that the best and the
brightest continue to study and work within the competitive technology
fields in the United States. Congress should, for example,
significantly expand the H1B visa program, end the requirement for 100
percent interviews for visa applications, and reform and expand the
Visa Waiver Program.
- Ensure that federal
agencies efficiently and effectively fund research and development on
the emerging technologies with significant national security
implications, particularly those that are not being developed
aggressively by the private sector, including nanotechnology and
- Encourage more
interdisciplinary approaches to research that combine disparate
scientific disciplines in both the basic and applied sciences, some
creating new methods of investigation, such as "network" science, which
combines studying physical, biological, and social phenomena to
understand how complex networks operate.
The Past Is a Poor Prologue
can ill afford to neglect science and technology policy. It can no
longer assume that the United States will maintain a decisive
technological edge over its global competitors. The world has changed.
the outset of the Cold War in 1947, America stood as the undisputed
world leader in science and technology. The nation's scientists,
bolstered by colleagues that had fled from war-torn Europe, provided an
unparalleled pool of knowledge with access to vast government
resources. As a result, the nation's leaders could rely on the best and
brightest for innovation and creativity to maintain the United States'
technological edge. At the same time, government-sponsored research
fueled by a decades-long competition with the Soviet Union funded many
of the premier technological innovations of the age.
century is very different. The best and the brightest are not located
exclusively in the United States, and the United States is not
necessarily the preferred destination for foreign scientists. Countries
throughout Europe and Asia have recognized the importance of
cutting-edge technologies, both in terms of economic growth and in
terms of military capabilities, and have devoted enormous resources to
their development. Consequently, not only is the United States seeing
its scientific lead shrink, but it is also experiencing difficulty in
attracting and retaining the talent necessary to produce
Another major change is that the
federal government is no longer the principal player in the research
and development that shapes the character of the modern era.
Private-sector innovations in biotechnology and information systems
dwarf government research. These emerging industries are creating
products that science-fiction writers never even imagined, with
dual-use capabilities that could potentially transform the fields of
homeland security and defense. In many cases, national security
innovation will come from adapting commercial off-the-shelf technology.
another significant difference from Cold War competition with the
Soviet Union is that many of America's enemies today seek to avoid
America's technical prowess, fighting space-age weapons with ancient
tactics like kidnapping, guerilla warfare, and suicide bombers. The
technological advantages of the Cold War era have proven ill-suited to
Emerging technologies will have a dramatic
impact on the future of our security. In the short term, these
technologies will provide capabilities that include protection and
possible immunity against biological agents, better screening at
airports and ports, more efficient information-gathering and
information-sharing techniques, and better armor for our troops. In the
long term, the sky is the limit. These fields will be at the center of
scientific advances for years to come and perhaps will redefine not
only our national security capabilities, but also how we conduct our
Dialogue, Not Monologue
Competitive Technologies for National Security: Review and Recommendations
represents the beginning, not the end, of The Heritage Foundation's
research on the challenges of adapting emerging capabilities for
national security. Facing the future will require finding the right
answers to some tough questions:
- How will the United States attract the best and the brightest to work and study here?
- How will the United States maintain access to the global research and technological base?
- How will the United States share innovations and collaborate with its friends and allies?
- How will the United States counter emerging national security threats and prevent its enemies from exploiting new technologies?
- How will the United States educate, train, and retain a quality workforce that can meet its national security needs?
will the U.S. government be able to identify and exploit cutting-edge
technologies that are being developed in the private sector?
are timeless questions, but the 21st century they will require new
answers—answers that will help to keep America safe, free, and
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