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Suggested Citation:"EXECUTIVE SUMMARY." National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Technology Policy and Critical Technologies: A Summary of Recent Reports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/20840.
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Suggested Citation:"EXECUTIVE SUMMARY." National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Technology Policy and Critical Technologies: A Summary of Recent Reports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/20840.
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Page 2

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Executive Summary -------· Two lines of activity have addressed concerns about the declining rela­ tive technological capability and competitiveness of the United States in the last several years. A series of reports and statements on U . S . technology policy has offered recommendations to enhance the performance of U . S . technology-based industries. Another series o f reports has identified tech­ nologies which are believed to be critical for the future. This paper reviews more than a dozen of these reports and assesses the progress represented therein toward a national technology policy that supports U . S . industrial competitiveness . It also offers suggestions for steps that leaders in business, academe, and government might take to build on the reports Evidence of progress in several respects may be found in the reports, including the policy enunciated by the Bush Administration of participating with industry in the development of generic, precompetitive technologies; the recognition of the need for participation by government, industry, aca­ deme, and labor; the consideration of the interrelationships between civilian and defense technology needs; and the identification of technologies that are critical to future economic competitiveness and national defense. On the other hand, key issues remain unresolved. It is uncertain whether federal support for precompetitive, generic technology has enough political support to garner significant financial resources in the federal budget. There also appears to be opposition to using the critical technolo­ gies lists to reorder R&D funding priorities and in many cases the critical technologies are defined too broadly to be very useful for this purpose. Some reports call for leadership by the President of the United States, while others distrust the federal government and call for industry leadership. The reports pay insufficient attention to certain important issues. They continue to focus on technology development, in contrast with technology diffusion and manufacturing modernization. They tend not to distinguish the different segments of U . S . industry nor recognize the difficulties in generalizing about the needs and interests of the U . S . industrial community. They leave key questions unanswered with respect to implementation of the recommendations. The paper concludes that progress has been made toward a national policy for developing and applying technology as a source of competitive advantage, but much more remains to be done. 1

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