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Next Steps The preceding review of recent technology policy and critical technoloÂ gies reports leads to the conclusion that some progress has been made toÂ ward a national technology policy that supports and promotes U. S. industriÂ al competitiveness, but much more remains to be done. Unfortunately, taken as a group the reports do not provide an unambiguous guide to the next steps that should be taken. Their recommendations are scattered across a broad range of policy areas and they leave unresolved key issues with respect to the role of the federal government in commercial technoloÂ gy, priorities for technology development, and leadership. In this final section, the author presents her own thoughts on some steps that can be taken to build on the reports reviewed here. These steps are suggested with the recognition that improving U. S. technological capaÂ bilities and competitiveness presents a complex and difficult challenge, one that requires a multifaceted approach and a continuing commitment. Clearly, it makes sense to move forward in the areas in which there is widespread agreement. One of the two recommendations in the technology policy reports with broad support is strengthening the federal role in generic technologies. This could take the form of increasing funding for existing activities such as the Advanced Technology Program in NIST, renewing funding for SEMATECH, and giving the departments and agencies with technical missions the responsibility for funding generic technology under their purview. The other recommendation for which there is broad support is making the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent. The groups that prepared these reports may now wish to work together to focus their comÂ bined resources on securing adoption of these two key recommendations. It is also important to keep up the momentum on the critical technoloÂ gies lists. As noted earlier, the definitions of the technologies should be further refined. More important, their implications for resource allocation (both public and private sector) need to be examined. Such an examination should be continuous and take into account changing patterns of global technological leadership. The Critical Technologies Institute or some other institution should be established to provide a focal point for developing and deploying the critical technologies. Given the increasing interdependencies between civilian and military technologies, any such institution should have 40
mechanisms for influencing technology development priorities in the private sector as well. The process of reordering priorities will probably have to be consultative; otherwise, the focal institution will be viewed as a threat to the federal mission agencies and the private sector. Other changes are needed, although there is less agreement on them. Major changes in federal policy are unlikely without the support and comÂ mitment of the President. A President who believes in a strong federal role in generic commercial technology and who is willing to use his office to promote it could play a major leadership role with respect to enactment and implementation of many of the recommendations made in these reports. The President could also use his " bully pulpit" to make the case to the nation about the importance of technology to U . S . national welfare. Institutional and structural issues need to be given more attention. Stronger technology policy institutions are needed, particularly in the ExecÂ utive Branch, to improve technology policy formulation and its coordination with economic policy. Consideration should be given to the changes recomÂ mended by the Carnegie Commission in the roles of OSTP, the National Security Council, and the Council of Economic Advisers . Institutions or mechanisms are also needed that can facilitate cooperaÂ tion among and between various sectors of the economy. The ManufacturÂ ing Forum provides one model for encouraging more productive relationÂ ships among business, government, academia, and labor. The AlA's Aerospace Technology Policy Forum is another. It may be possible to make existing institutions work more effectively or take on new responsibilities. This evolutionary approach is embodied in recommendations for transforming DARPA into a NARPA and for giving all the federal agencies and departments with technical missions the responsiÂ bility for funding and diffusing generic technology. Existing institutions are often hostile to new missions, however, especially in times of budgetary constraint. Therefore, eventually it may be necessary to establish new institutions-such as the Civilian Technology Agency proposed by OTA. The current dialogue on U . S . competitiveness problems and the imporÂ tance of commercial technology needs to be expanded in at least two ways. First, there are important groups of policy makers and scholars that remain to be convinced that the relative technological capability of industry is an important factor in international competitiveness . For example, economist Dale Jorgenson recently argued that the driving force in Japanese competiÂ tiveness has been the depreciation of the yen and growth in Japanese labor costs. 20 More effort needs to be made to engage these groups in discussion of the relationship of technology to competitiveness and other measures of economic performance. Second, the dialogue on technology and competitiveness should be extended to include the public at large. Widespread political support for major policy change and new programs is unlikely to emerge if the public does not comprehend the consequences of lagging technological capability 41
and competitiveness for their daily lives. The Help Wan ted Citizen InforÂ mation Campaign on Skills of the Work Force, sponsored jointly by the Business-Higher Education Forum and the Public Agenda Foundation, proÂ vides a model for public education campaigns on issues related to technoloÂ gy and competitiveness. Help Wan ted is an intense effort to communicate to the public the consequences-in terms of jobs and quality of life-of not having a first-rate educational system. It consists of coordinated public media information campaigns and town meetings. Action should also be taken to strengthen both analytical support and the underlying knowledge base for technology policymaking. Technology policy topics for which better data and analysis are necessary include the contribution of technology development and diffusion to national economic welfare, relative U . S . capability in particular technologies, how technologiÂ cal capabilities in certain industries are related to competitiveness in those and other industries, the dynamics of national technological leadership and competitiveness, and the effectiveness of proposed policies and programs. The proposals for strengthening technology policy analysis and research made in these reports should be pursued. These include establishment of the Critical Technologies Institute and strengthening the data collection and analysis programs of the Department of Commerce. Technology policy research and analysis capabilities in the National Science Foundation and other government agencies, as well as academic institutions, should be strengthened to enhance the quality of the theory and data underlying techÂ nology policy decisions . Industry's primary role i n a national technology strategy should be to increase private investment in technology and effectively manage private technical resources to make a profit . A broader range of U . S . industry must come to see technology as the fundamental source of competitiveness . It must become committed to developing and applying technology to produce next-generation products, to reaching the market first, and to continually improving the quality and reducing the price of those products. And, if necessary, it must do so in spite of government policies that are admittedly less than optimal. Industry must also work more closely with the federal government than it has in the past. There are numerous obstacles to this happening. WorkÂ ing closely with government is difficult for industry, because government intervention may benefit some firms at the expense of others. Furthermore, U . S . industry consists of very different sectors with different technological needs and interests. Nonetheless, a number of trends mentioned in the reports-e .g., increasing interdependencies between military and commercial technologies, competition from other countries whose governments support strategic industries, limited resources, and the need to reorder priorities-all require better cooperation between industry and government. The critical technologies may provide a useful focal point for broader industry-governÂ ment cooperation. 42
Finally, changes are needed in attitudes and perspectives to emphasize the values of technological innovation, cooperation, and competition. LeadÂ ers in industry, academe, and government can begin to change the cultures within their respective institutions. They can also get the message out to other organizations and sectors through a variety of means, including perÂ sonal communications, speaking engagements, congressional testimony, opÂ ed pieces, and white papers. Having suggested steps that can be taken toward a national technology policy that is more supportive of U.S. international competitiveness, it is necessary to acknowledge some political and budgetary realities that are for the most part avoided in the reports. In the current climate of conservatism and budget stringency, it is very difficult for the federal government to take the initiative on technology programs that would require large resources or involve the federal government more directly than has been traditional in commercial technology . Moreover, it is clearly impossible in times of budget deficits to increase funding for critical technologies without reducing funding for other technologies, or to boost R &D and industrial investment without giving up something else. For this reason, major policy shifts are likely to occur only in response to strong political pressure and with strong leadership at the highest levels of government, both of which appear to be lacking. It is commonly said in the technology policy community that the needÂ ed changes will only come in response to a crisis of some type. It would be unfortunate if this scenario has to be played out to its end, both because of the painful economic dislocations that would entail and because policy made in a crisis environment is likely not to be good policy. To avoid such a scenario, it is necessary now to begin to implement some of the many recommendations that have been made. Perhaps more important, it is necessary to grapple with the key, unresolved issues of the role of the federÂ al government in commercial technology and the need to reorder priorities in public and private funding for commercial technology-issues that are holding back meaningful progress toward a national technology policy that supports U.S. competitiveness. 43