“Second only to a weapon of mass destruction detonating in an American city, we can think of nothing more dangerous than a failure to manage properly science, technology, and education for the common good over the next quarter century.”1
The U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, chartered by Secretary of Defense William Cohen in 1998, is one of many bodies to document the vital connection between the health of the U.S. science and technology base and national security. We are now more than halfway through the quarter century referenced by the commission in their Phase III report, and the challenge levied in the quote above is intensifying in both importance and difficulty.
The intersection between the products of the science and technology (S&T) enterprise and the instruments of national power is large—and, arguably, expanding. From a historical perspective, our military superiority as well as our economic power are derived in large measure from the technological leadership provided by our nation’s S&T enterprise. Retooling these and other instruments for 21st century realities will further strengthen that dependency. But the requisite retooling should be accomplished in an environment in which leadership across a dynamic, interconnected, and expanding global S&T enterprise is no longer dominated by the United States.
Sustained mission success will require the DoD to selectively maintain technological superiority while effectively leveraging advances occurring throughout the global S&T landscape.
1Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change. U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century (Hart-Rudman Commission, Phase III). 2001. February 15, 2001, p. 30.
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.
Ultimately, the over-arching strategy should identify key stakeholders in the defense research enterprise (DRE) and beyond, who would benefit from such global awareness—spanning the spectrum from individual researchers to portfolio managers to acquisition program managers and to policy-level decision makers. It should establish clear priorities—perhaps a two-tiered approach distinguishing basic science from technological advances—with sufficient specificity to focus efforts across the DoD. It should establish principles and mechanisms that motivate dynamic capture and sharing of information and insights across the stakeholder communities to enhance decision making while reducing the collective consumption of scarce resources. It should focus on what must be accomplished through the definition of measurable outcomes that provide focus and define accountability for department-wide implementation. Importantly, the strategy should articulate an approach that explicitly accounts for the dynamic, interconnected, and expanding nature of the global S&T enterprise. The approach should rely on both human information networks and advanced infor-
mation technology methodologies, some of which may need to be developed for DoD purposes.
As noted in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) Report, the DoD is not alone in confronting the challenge of maintaining global awareness of important scientific and technological advances. Thus, the strategy might also address how DoD could engage other federal agencies, academia, the private sector, and international partners in building shared awareness of global scientific and technological advances—a common good approach.
Enterprise-wide S&T situational awareness begins with ensuring its S&E workforce maintains global awareness of S&T and be appropriately engaged with the international research community.
As “champions” for the S&T workforce,2 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 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.
An effective workforce development strategy would establish clear expectations for S&T personnel throughout the enterprise together with measures to assess “global readiness.” It would include ongoing training opportunities in language and cultural awareness in addition to key technical areas. It would make clear that rotational assignments to overseas field offices are career-building opportunities. And it would establish the priorities and support to enable scientists and engineers at all levels of the DRE to succeed.
The committee acknowledges that security concerns will limit the ability of some DoD scientists and engineers to collaborate globally. Such individuals
2 Reliance 21. Operating Principles: Bringing Together the DoD Science and Technology Enterprise. January 2014. P. 4.
should nonetheless be expected to maintain awareness of relevant scientific and technological advances that could impact their own work. As noted in Table 1-1, there is a broad spectrum of activities ranging from passive to active that constitute global engagement.
DoD and its Services have in place many mechanisms intended to improve awareness of global advances in science and technology, but existing mechanisms are not well integrated; barriers and impediments to successful implementation exist; and outcomes are not systematically measured to assess effectiveness.
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.
- 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.
During the course of this study, the committee identified a number of issues that limit the effectiveness of current efforts to improve awareness of global S&T advances. At the top of the list for both overseas components and Service laboratories are the current policy and resource constraints that limit travel, specifically targeting conference and workshop attendance. The authors of “Globalization of S&T: Key Challenges Facing DOD” note that “[t]he required awareness can be maintained only if the U.S. S&T workforce is a participant in the
global S&T community. This is true for the DOD S&T workforce as well.”3 At present, it is exceptionally difficult for the DoD S&T workforce to be a participant in the global S&T community; the barriers that currently exist have to be lowered.
During meetings and facility visits the study committee consistently asked DoD briefers to describe the benefits of their global engagement activities. While some examples were provided the organizations were unable to clearly articulate what constituted “success” for their missions. The absence of clear objectives impedes the organizations’ abilities—both individually and collectively—to effectively prioritize allocation of scarce resources. There is both intellectual and financial value in leveraging international collaborations. At a time of increasing pressure on DoD budgets international collaborations allow DoD to get significantly more reseach impact for the same research dollar. The Services should, in alignment with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering strategy described in Recommendation 1, establish clear expectations and measurable objectives for their respective global engagement efforts.
The committee also identified concerns relating to staffing, particularly with small overseas contingents tasked to cover a diverse range of scientific domains often across an equally diverse geographic region encompassing several distinct languages and cultures. While some differences exist among the objectives of the service components, it nonetheless appears that a more coordinated approach to staffing would be beneficial—planning collectively to better address the range of scientific and cultural requirements in a given region.
Again, with regard to the overseas components, some sharing of information occurs by virtue of co-location and local collaboration, but the committee observed that the information trail back to the respective service headquarters and laboratories remained stovepiped. Further, it was unclear how (and by whom) information transmitted from the field was used to inform decision making. The Services should collectively establish clear expectations for information sharing and a common channel for information flow as well as a feedback loop to help assess the value of information generated by the overseas components and to provide those components with guidance on information needs. Reliance 21 describes the Research and Engineering Gateway, “a collaborative environment where DoD and industry partners can access information and data,”4 but it is not clear whether this resource will include the features necessary to enable S&T personnel to access and leverage DRE-wide information to help build global S&T awareness.
3 “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. 1.
4 Reliance 21. Operating Principles: Bringing Together the DoD Science and Technology Enterprise. January 2014. Annex: Enabling Knowledge Management Infrastructure.
Decision timeliness is another key success factor given the dynamic global S&T environment. Based on committee visits to Service laboratories and overseas offices it appears that administrative overhead could be reduced and timeliness could be improved through greater use of standard agreements. Further, it was not clear to committee members that information regarding in-place agreements was sufficiently transparent such that those agreements could be leveraged by others.
The committee’s observations are based on a very limited sampling; a far more systematic review and analysis is needed to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of existing mechanisms for global engagement.
The committee did not identify a single “best” approach to maintaining global S&T awareness, but rather believes an integrated suite of methodologies is needed. Opportunities exist for DoD to adopt or adapt practices in use by other institutions and sectors as it implements its strategy to maintain awareness of global advances in science and technology.
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 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.
Current DoD approaches to exploiting global S&T advances include the following:
- Reliance on individual researchers (both extra- and intra-mural) to know where the best work in their field is being performed (and by whom), and to craft their proposals accordingly.
- Expecting review panels to have sufficient global awareness to select the best individual and collaborative research proposals for funding.
- Use of scientist visits and exchanges to gain additional insights regarding research performed elsewhere.
- Leveraging overseas presence as platforms for talent-spotting and relationship building in targeted regions of the world.
- Establishing bilateral and multilateral cooperation agreements for joint research programs.
The people-intensive approaches described above sometimes (but not consistently) use bibliometric data mining and other analytic techniques to focus their efforts. Based on inputs received by the committee, it appears that attendance at technical conferences and workshops are more commonly used to identify potentially important work and to spot emerging talent.
A variety of analytically based approaches are in use across DoD by organizations seeking to characterize the evolving global S&T landscape. Such approaches include bibliometric mapping to identify research hot-spots, analysis of patent filings within specific fields to discern institutional strengths, and exploratory application of emerging tools that may enable more efficient machine-based analysis of extremely large data sets. The committee concluded, however, that existing efforts—whether people centric or machine centric—are not integrated to deliver value commensurate with the cumulative investments. The envisioned enterprise solution would leverage the Service-specific mechanisms, as well as provide the connective tissue to afford transparency and efficient sharing of information across all stakeholder communities.
The DoD, however, needs to go beyond knitting together existing mechanisms. The people-centric approaches, while vital to overall success, do not affordably scale to address the scope of the dynamic and expanding global S&T landscape. At the same time, the explosion in available data and information that, if efficiently analyzed, could help researchers, managers, and decision makers spot areas and activities of potential interest, currently overwhelms generally available tools. The committee did not examine the potential of analytics for identifying new disruptive or useful ideas or researchers (i.e., detecting a small, new signal among the noisy S&T landscape). However, the DoD is not alone in facing this challenge; opportunities exist to more effectively leverage the prior work by the National Research Council5 as well as ongoing work by
5 See, for example, Persistent Forecasting of Disruptive Technologies: Volumes I and II.
Nesta6 and others, including researchers who are developing the science and tools for data mining analysis.
During a recent briefing on the 2015 Defense budget, Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, noted that, “…the development and proliferation of more advanced military technologies by other nations…means that we are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space can no longer be taken for granted”. 7 Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Alan Shaffer, rearticulated these concerns that “…the capability challenges to [DoD’s] R&E program are also increasing…[and are] attributable to changes in the global S&T landscape and the acceleration globally of development of advanced military capabilities that could impact the superiority of US systems”.8 As described early in this report, defense collaboration and engagement with the global research community provide opportunities not only to improve technological situational awareness, but also to maintain productive international partnerships critical for solving important national, regional, and global challenges. This is particularly important for the development of science and technology that, while important to the U.S. defense research enterprise, will be driven by technological advances made by other S&T organizations around the world.
The findings and recommendations described in this report provide an important first step for the DoD to reexamine its current portfolio of international S&T activities and programs and to better leverage global research collaboration, engagement, and awareness efforts occurring across the full defense research enterprise. If the DoD does not develop an enterprise-wide strategy to improve its global S&T awareness and coordination efforts, it runs the risk of losing technological competency with severe implications for economic and national security.
6 See, for example, Nesta Working Papers on Quantitative Analysis of Technology Futures.
7http://www.defense.gov/Transcripts/Transcript.aspx?TranscriptID=5377. Retrieved on April 22, 2014.
8http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Shaffer_04-08-14.pdf. Retrieved on April 22, 2014.