US sets out strategy to retain dominance in emerging tech

By on 19/10/2020
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany holds a press briefing
The White House

The White House has unveiled a strategy which aims to promote and protect the United States’ competitive edge in a range of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum information science and distributed ledger technologies.

The National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies names 20 technologies defined by the National Security Council (NSC) “to be critical, or to potentially become critical, to the United States’ national security advantage, including military, intelligence, and economic advantages”.

A key pledge of the strategy is to shore up the US’s position against competitors such as China and Russia, which the Trump administration accuses of stealing technology, coercing companies into handing over intellectual property, undercutting free and fair markets, and surreptitiously diverting emerging civilian technologies to build up their militaries, according to a statement released by White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany.

Fierce competition

“American leadership in science and technology (S&T) faces growing challenges from strategic competitors, who recognise the benefits of S&T and are organising massive human and capital resources on a national scale to take the lead in areas with long-term consequences,” the 30 page document begins.

It goes on to highlight the importance of working with “like-minded allies and partners” as well as taking a “market-oriented approach” which it says “will allow us to prevail against state-directed models that produce waste and dis-incentivise innovation.”

The national strategy encourages “unity of effort” across the government and “provides a framework from which deliberate actions will affect multiple technology areas in a coordinated manner.” It rests on two pillars: promoting the National Security Innovation Base (NSIB); and protecting technology advantage. It lists numerous goals beneath each pillar which are “to be considered or undertaken”.

A broad path forwards

The actions listed are broad in scope but light on specifics. The 13 priority actions, which aim to promote the NSIB, include: developing the highest-quality science and technology workforce in the world; attracting and retaining inventors and innovators; and working with the private sector to create positive messaging to increase public acceptance of critical and emerging technologies.

Under pillar II, the nine actions listed (in no particular order) include: ensuring secure supply chains and encouraging allies and partners to do the same; and engaging with the private sector to benefit from its understanding of critical and emerging technologies (C&ET) as well as related future strategic vulnerabilities.

“This strategy outlines the ways and means by which the United States, with its allies and partners, will continue to be the world leader in C&ET,” the document says.

The 20 technologies identified as emerging and critical to the US include advanced computing, conventional weapons, engineering, manufacturing, sensing, space and biotechnologies. The list “reflects the 20 technology areas that United States Government Departments and Agencies identified to the National Security Council staff as priorities for their missions,” the strategy states, and will be reviewed annually on an ongoing basis.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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