TIMING OF TECHNOLOGY DEPLOYMENT

The timing for the deployment of these technologies will depend on a number of factors. Progress will undoubtedly be affected by the level of private effort for "dual use" technologies of interest to, and under development by, both government and private customers. The level of private effort is related to economic factors, including available alternatives, potential market, and opportunity costs. Economic analyses of this kind were beyond the scope of this study and conclusions dependent on them are not included in this report.

Technologies of use for intelligence activities may also be under internal development by the sponsor or other government agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) or the other branches of DOD. Other agencies such as the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) may be developing technologies that could also prove valuable to the mission of the intelligence community. Federal nano R&D efforts are organized and coordinated under the National Nanotechnology Initiative,2 established in 2000.3

While the Committee did receive some information about internal government technology development programs, these were illustrative rather than an exhaustive presentation of the federal government's technology portfolio. It is therefore inappropriate for the Committee to make definitive conclusions about the timing for the deployment of various technologies.

Nevertheless, it is possible to make some qualitative statements about the timing for the deployment of technologies discussed in this report. The Committee expects that quantum computing, molecular electronics, functional nanostructures (e.g., bio-nano supramolecules), and millimeter-scale intelligent distributed sensor networks will probably require longer development times than nano- and organic electronics, nanotaggants, and microbiotechnology based on microfluidic systems.

CONCLUSION

The nanoscale concept will be a unifying theme connecting science and technology globally, and given the amount of effort and money being devoted to it, it is very likely to produce important new technologies. Having said that it is important, however, it is also useful to get an idea of how important. While the field has produced several revolutionary research tools (e.g., scanning probe microscopes), the Committee remains skeptical of claims that nanotechnology will have the kind of broad, revolutionary impact that has characterized fields such as biotechnology or microelectronics.

2  

The NNI website is www.nano.gov

3  

National Academy Press, Small Wonders and Endless Frontiers: A Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2002.



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