Technology Driven National Security Strategy

By Kevin Coleman

Our National Security Strategy (NSS) is a living document - constantly changing. As the geo-political environment evolves, our strategy is adapted and is enhanced to meet new threats. The last century concluded with a decisive victory for freedom. No one would argue the significant role technology played in achieving that victory. The Gulf war demonstrated, for all to see, the capabilities of smart weapons. In the years since, the accuracy, capabilities and reliability of these weapons have been greatly improved. Operation Iraqi Freedom once again demonstrated to the world the increased value of these smart systems technologies. While the media coverage of the war in Iraq gave most Americans a reason to be proud, it had a far more profound impact on foreign governments around the world. The display of our capabilities resulting from technological supremacy, both offensively and defensively, truly had a shock and awe impact talked about in the early days of the war; so much so, that many governments are left uneasy about how much more advanced our systems are than the ones they possess. Advanced technology has provided the US with military capabilities far superior to the rest of the world. After viewing the smart missile dive down under the bridge and destroy a tank hiding there while leaving the bridge intact you can easily see how the military leaders around the world would covet such capabilities. While we openly discuss our desire to stem future military competition, the open demonstration of our capabilities in Iraq has undoubtedly created a new type of arms race. The new arms race focuses on supporting technologies rather than bigger yields from our weapons - more about intelligence and information than about tanks, guns and foot soldiers.

The same technological superiority that gave the US unprecedented military capabilities has also provided the engine that drives our economy. The combination of military and economic power yields unparalleled political influence. We live in a technologically intensive society where the rate of technological advancement is accelerating at a pace many find troubling. In the past thirty years, we have experienced more dramatic changes brought about by technology than ever before in history. Given some in-depth insights into advanced technology research organizations (both public and private), there are wondrous new developments ahead that will shape our lives in ways yet unimaginable. These scientific and technological breakthroughs have far reaching political, economic and social implications. These implications are not limited in scope to the country or jurisdiction where the development takes place but throughout the world.

Over the decades our threats and enemies have changed. The task of defending our nation against these threats must rapidly evolve to meet his unprecedented challenge; this challenge is far greater than the one we faced during the Cold War. The characteristics of our new enemies significantly differ from those we have faced in the past and require new strategies, tactics and tools. Our new enemies are ardently seeking weapons of mass destruction as well as weapons of mass disruption. These new enemies pose an enormous challenge that requires new and greater intelligence and military capabilities if we are to meet this challenge. Our old enemies have not gone away. We must not forget our traditional enemies or the enemies yet unknown. These too will require technological capabilities that far exceed those available today. For these reasons, the greatest threat we face is losing our leadership position in technology.

Guiding the development and proliferation of technology is a complex undertaking. The emerging technologies will play an increasingly important role in economic development worldwide, thus, resulting in power gains and loses. How can we understand the political, ethical, moral, social, economic and political issues that will reverberate across the globe? The convergence of these technologies coupled with the secondary impact of information technology and communications technology offer a technology boom that will dwarf that brought about by the Internet. The question is: "What if the evolution of science and technology and its impact create a degree of change that makes it difficult for society, in total, to adapt?" The digital divide of today will be accelerated and will evolve into the "technological have's and have-not's." If this is indeed the case, advances in science and technology will create extremely complex social, political, and economic issues that must be addressed in our foreign policy and international relations in a proactive manner. The pressure on government leaders forces them to focus on short-term economic and political developments; this being the case, one can understand why governments lag behind in their ability to respond to such potential changes.

The area of technology policy analysis and study has most recently received the attention of institutions of higher learning. Professor Daniel Hastings serves as Director of MIT's Technology and Policy Program; programs such as this bridge the educational gap between business, technology, and policy that have evolved due to the highly complex era in which we live. The implications of technology on public and private sector policy have been missing in many advanced degree programs. The geopolitical implications of emerging technology will have far greater influence on foreign policy and international relations than any other time in history. The winners at these core technologies of the 21st century will become a major factor to weaken the power status of less technologically sophisticated nations. As the differential in the various rates of scientific and technological progress widens from the leading nations and nations in the early stages of development, the likelihood of conflict will increase. The productivity and economic advantages of the emerging technology may result in a shift in GPD (economic influence), thereby marginalizing many countries and placing them at an economic disadvantage. The losers in this technology race might see their economic productivity cut in half and the resulting decrease in GDP could plunge the country, or even an entire region, into a deep economic depression.

What I have learned after years of exploring technology and the impact on business, government and industry has given me reason for concern. I have come to believe more and more that cross-discipline technological understanding is required for all executives in the public and private sector. How can governments prepare for the next technological era? What is required is a formal process to address socio-economic, political and business issues and to conduct analysis of policy decisions that are related to or influenced by technology. This process must include a framework for the identification and definition of technology implications that make the emerging technologies susceptible to rigorous fact-based analysis required for establishing foreign policy and assessing the technological impact on foreign relations. The use of fact-based analysis along with keen insight based on the experience of unbiased subject matter experts must replace the ambiguous and sometimes self-benefiting process currently used to assist leaders in making decisions regarding strategic technology policy. The challenge of working with diverse economies and varying degrees of technological and scientific levels of sophistication requires dedicated resources and formalized procedures that operate in a highly collaborative workspace. There is also a need to develop a multidisciplinary group to proactively disseminate accurate and timely information to a wide spectrum of public and private sector executives regarding the implementation issues of advances in technology and the impact on global business. This group will act as an impartial technology ambassador and advisor to the leaders of governments and other policy setting bodies.

The changes foreseen over the next decade or two will be more comprehensive and have a higher degree of impact on every aspect of our lives than has ever been witnessed. Technology is advancing exponentially and the rate of advancement is accelerating; it is impossible to throttle back innovation and technological advancement. We need to approach policy decisions with a new predictive model that is built upon fact-based assessments. Due to the accelerated rate of change being brought about by emerging technologies, governments must be proactive in their investigation, policy development, and possible legislation. Policy decisions (both foreign and domestic) must carefully consider the positive and negative consequences of each of these technologies. It will be all but impossible for social and political systems to adapt and respond quick enough to keep up with the coming technological advancement.

The world could experience profound upheavals as technologies emerge and bring about political and economic shifts of power. Likewise the fissure between the "technology have's and the technology have not's" will create even greater challenges.

Our National Security Strategy is multifaceted and complex. This strategy establishes goals and objectives as well as strategic alliances necessary to address our challenges. This article has addressed only the technological aspects associated with this doctrine. As history has taught us, technological advancement has pluses and minuses. If the current view of coming advances in nanotech, biotech and information and communications technology is anywhere close to accurate, the associated policy challenges faced by our government will be the greatest challenge of all.

No one would dispute the critical role technology plays in defense and security. In 2003 President Bush announced his budget for Homeland Defense. The budget allocates $37 billion for homeland security, of which $722 million alone is for using technology to share information between departments. That equates to nearly 2% of the entire budget just to share information between agencies. Given such a large market opportunity, VCs (Venture Capitalists) have broadened their definition of defense related technologies. Our rapid advancement in technology, while creating economic growth, adds another more subtle effect. If you look at technology sophistication by country on a global scale, you will uncover a very broad distribution. You have a moderate number of countries that are either disadvantaged or challenged technologically, a high number of countries that are technologically average and a very low number of countries that are technologically superior.

As figure number 1 illustrates, the distribution resembles a somewhat tilted bell curve - leaning toward laggards in technology. At some point in time, advances in technology create a flywheel effect.

The fly wheel effect:
Technology breeds productivity and quality (yellow).
Productivity accelerates competitiveness& growth.
Economic growth provides the foundation for stability.
Economic prosperity creates political influence and power

Technology also provides the capabilities for countries to defend themselves - thus, creating some degree of security. When you look at the rate of technological advancement or progress, you can see as time passes the technologically sophisticated advance faster and faster causing the gap between the technologically advanced and the technologically disadvantaged to increase. One could argue, and I have in my executive briefings, that while technology drives economic growth - this in turn, drives political influence and power. It is extremely critical now to be the leader in science and technology. This criticality will only increase for the foreseeable future.

As society evolves around the world, our reliance on science and technology will increase. The next technology revolution will ignite global economic growth and expansion of free markets. The issue of individual segments of the global society evolving at such different rates will create increased tensions and instability. Technology is creating a global community of the "have's and have not's." The most critical area of our national security strategy is our strategy to maintain technological supremacy.

The hypothesis presented in this document must influence our current approach to our National Security Strategy. While technology is only one axis upon which the NSS doctrine pivots, the degree of influence requires a new approach. The United States must select an advisory panel charged with assessing the impact of future scientific and technological advancement on U.S.domestic response to the threats of the 21st century.

The new approach must create a point of reference as to the technological evolution of each country. In addition, a metric and measure must be established to assess the scientific and technological advancement of each country. Finally, a tracking facility to assess and collect this information on an annual basis is essential so that trending information can be gathered. Once this foundation is established, a forecasting and measurement system must be incorporated to evaluate emerging scientific and technological change.

Published Thursday, February 12th, 2004

Written by Kevin Coleman

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