According to recent reports,1,2 the U.S. currently accounts for less than one-third of global research and development spending, and it is projected that this fraction will decline to 18 percent by 2050. These statistics, compounded by the recognition that the United States no longer maintains technological superiority across all research fields, highlight the need for the U.S. research community to stay abreast of emerging science and technology (S&T) around the world, to leverage others’ investments, and to seek out collaborations in areas where researchers need to remain at the leading edge.
Today, the globalization of science and technology has profoundly impacted the global research landscape and the ways in which the international research community accesses, participates in the production of, and exchanges scientific knowledge. International knowledge exchanges can occur through a number of mechanisms, such as science conferences and professional meetings, researcher seminars and visits, the scientific literature, and joint research projects. In addition to curiosity-driven (typically academic) engagement, international research collaboration can play a critical role in ameliorating global challenges, such as natural and engineered disasters (e.g., Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster) and pandemic disease outbreaks (e.g., H1N1). Despite these opportunities, however, there is often a cultural and political reluctance in the United States, driven partly by intellectual property and economic concerns, to international collaboration in science and technology, particularly in the defense research space.
The United States has, however, historically collaborated with its allies to develop the technologies needed for defense, such as radar, submarines, protective clothing, and medicines. For example, since the Second World War, U.S. defense researchers have worked closely with those from the other “five eyes” (United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) under The Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP). Other technology engagement activities include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Science and Technology Organization
2“Globalization of S&T: Key Challenges Facing DOD.” Timothy Coffey and Steven Ramberg. Center for Technology and National Security Policy: National Defense University. February 2012, .p. 29.
(NATO STO) and scientist and engineer (S&E) exchanges amongst defense allies at their laboratories and research centers. In addition, the Services maintain an overseas presence to monitor the development of technologies of interest and to prevent “technological surprise,” a military advantage gained by another country by leapfrogging U.S. capability.
The two activities, collaboration and monitoring, can in principle reinforce each other: monitoring activities can locate opportunities for collaboration and collaborators can also monitor while they work. The globalization of research has affected both of these activities as research and development capabilities grow worldwide and research collaboration across countries rises. Research and development are still heavily national activities, but much less so than in the past as the R&D world becomes flatter and more networked. Under these conditions, a military strategy that depends on huge gaps in technological capability cannot be maintained. Security under globalization needs to depend not only on technological dominance but also on cooperative relationships.
This shift has important implications for the way the U.S. DoD engages internationally in science and technology. Monitoring is still important, but is now aided importantly by a variety of information technologies and tools. This report argues that DoD should develop a department-wide strategy to maintain global awareness and to identify opportunities to leverage its R&D investments and collaborate internationally.
Each of the DoD’s Services (Army, Air Force, and Navy—including the Marines) has research enterprises with varying institutional configurations in its international S&T engagement activities. In addition to maintaining overseas S&T offices, each Service has S&Es at military laboratories and at universities (including DoD-funded university investigators) who also engage with international contacts and collaborate in joint international research. DoD enterprise-wide global awareness begins with ensuring that this S&T workforce is globally aware of emerging S&T developments. However, researchers at defense laboratories and research centers who wish to engage internationally face funding limitations and restrictions on travel and conference participation, as well as security walls closing in on research activities that should be as open as possible within the boundaries of national security concerns. These barriers limit the DoD S&T workforce’s ability to maintain global awareness and to develop necessary collaborations. It will also hamper the Department’s ability to recruit and retain top S&E talent. Awareness via publications and data analytics is useful, but only provides a partial (and oftentimes delayed) picture of global S&T and cannot replace in-person S&T engagement. Thus, the Services’ S&T field offices provide an important and unique opportunity for on-the-ground engagement and relationship and network building. Fully taking advantage of this opportunity, however, hinges on the ability of DoD to relay this information throughout its network of S&Es and decision makers.
While the DoD currently has a variety of mechanisms in place for global S&T awareness and collaboration, those mechanisms are not integrated well, barriers and impediments to successful implementation exist, and outcomes are
not measured systematically to assess effectiveness. International S&T engagement activities are done on an ad hoc basis, and information gained either through monitoring or collaboration is not integrated effectively into overall situational awareness, either horizontally across the Services S&T enterprises or vertically to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASD(R&E)) to effectively provide input for strategic S&T decision making.
The committee did not identify a single “best” approach for maintaining global awareness, but rather believes an integrated suite of methodologies is needed. Enterprise-wide global S&T awareness benefits researchers, administrators and policy makers in academia, industry, and government both in the United States and overseas. Further, many of the mechanisms employed by the DoD, such as S&E exchanges and conference support, are also used by other S&T organizations around the world. Thus, the DoD should identify opportunities to leverage these efforts. If the DoD does not develop a specific, clearly defined and implementable enterprise-wide strategy for fully taking advantage of global S&T, either by absorbing knowledge and talent from the international research community or collaborating, it runs the risk of losing technological competency with severe implications for economic and national security.
The committee offers the following four recommendations and important first steps to implement each:
The ASD/R&E should develop a specific, clearly defined and implementable strategy to maintain global awareness of relevant scientific and technological advances that emerge from the dynamic, interconnected, and expanding global S&T enterprise.
Important first steps include:
- The ASD/R&E, in concert with the R&E Executive Committee (ExCom) and the S&T ExCom, should adopt as an operating principle the use of global technology awareness to inform S&T-related investments across the Defense Research Enterprise (DRE).
- The ASD/R&E should, within the Reliance 21 framework, require each Community of Interest to identify and assess (with periodic updates) relevant global research results; those assessments should inform portfolio reviews as well as programmatic investments.
- The head of the research enterprise for each of the Services should ensure that Service-specific S&T investment strategies
are similarly informed by awareness of related international research.
- The heads of the research enterprises for the Services should work collaboratively to develop a regional S&T engagement strategy, together with clearly defined outcomes and measures, to focus the activities of overseas field offices.
As “champions” for the S&T workforce,3 the S&T Executive Committee should establish a workforce development strategy to build and maintain global awareness.
Important first steps include:
- The ASD/R&E, in concert with the S&T ExCom, should drive a culture across the Defense Research Enterprise that values external ideas and capabilities by consistently communicating and reinforcing the importance of global awareness and engagement.
- The ASD/R&E, in concert with the S&T ExCom, should require each Community of Interest (COI) to share its assessment of relevant global research results with the entire Defense Research Enterprise, and to provide DRE researchers an opportunity to contribute to ongoing assessment efforts.
DoD and its Services should conduct a systematic review and analysis of existing mechanisms intended to improve global S&T awareness to identify steps to remove barriers and improve their effectiveness.
Important first steps include:
- The ASD/R&E, in concert with the R&E ExCom, should establish policy and provide support to enable DRE researchers to attend relevant technical conferences and workshops.
- The heads of the research enterprises for the Services should work cooperatively to staff field offices with the scientific, linguistic, and cultural expertise needed to effectively implement their collective regional S&T engagement strategy.
3 Reliance 21. Operating Principles: Bringing Together the DoD Science and Technology Enterprise. January 2014. P. 4.
- In each of the major overseas field offices, the Service leads should work collaboratively to develop and implement a local inter-agency engagement strategy in order to leverage the presence of other US government agencies.
- The ASD/R&E should work with the heads of the research enterprises for the Services to establish DRE-channel reporting in parallel to existing Service-specific reporting from the overseas field offices.
The DoD and its Services should develop an enterprise-wide solution to implement the strategy called for in Recommendation I.
Important first steps include:
• The ASD/R&E should establish DRE-wide reporting protocols and a DRE-wide searchable repository to begin building global situational awareness. (The committee notes that the R&E Gateway hosted by the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) may be useful in this regard.) Topics to be considered include:
o What are the S&T priorities for international reporting?
o Is reporting focused on engagement, collaboration, and/or technology assessments?
o How often and in what format should reporting occur?
o Who should be able to access field S&T assessments?
o What are metrics for successful reporting?
• The ASD/R&E should establish a DRE-wide platform to support bibliometrics and other related analytics; a critical enabler is enterprise-wide access to appropriate bibliographic data sets.