Nonproliferation, Defense, Space, and Related Programs; Applied Technology and Technology Commercialization

By David Bernstein (Stanford University)

Many programs are in a transitional phase from short-term objectives to long-term ones. A major concern in this transition is how to make individual projects sustainable by means other than continued U.S. government support.

Among U.S. government agencies, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has perhaps the largest portfolio of cooperative S&T activities with Russia. The joint activities, which go back over 20 years, have great historical and contemporary significance for both sides. The cooperation has led to such grand-scale projects as an international space station. The joint cooperation has also stimulated creativity on the part of the Russian partners; for example, the Khrunichev State Research Production Space Center built a second cargo module for its own use. There is a long-term commitment to the cooperative program by both the United States and Russia, but financial resources on the Russian side remain a major problem.

Another large group of joint activities with Russia, in terms of U.S. dollars spent, falls under the general heading of nonproliferation. Those activities include the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) and the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (IPP). The ISTC in particular illustrates the importance and benefits of dealing directly with Russian scientists, although with Russian government approval.

A growing emphasis on technology commercialization by those who design and implement cooperative programs exists, but much of it is a technology-push versus a market-pull approach. There is little evidence of success in the former and considerable evidence of success in the latter. U.S. programs should be aimed at supporting existing company-to-company ventures.

There was widespread concern among the participants over the decline in the number of active scientists and engineers since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It should be noted, however, that there were too many scientists and engineers for the Russian economy to sustain, so a decline was inevitable. The more important question might be the quality and age distribution of the remainder and the numbers who are being educated and are serious about pursuing technical careers. Scientists and engineers moving into commerce might be a necessary realignment of a distorted economy and should not necessarily be viewed as bad.

Some of the greatest needs in Russia relate to health and the environment. At the same time, there is not nearly enough money to make much progress in those areas in the short term. It is important to minimize further damage from polluting activities to buy time until remediation is feasible. This strategy can be compared to the original nonproliferation strategy of the United States.

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