Brooks discussed the development and procurement of emerging technologies as they influence every sector of the federal marketplace, including the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), academia and the intelligence community. You can read Chuck Brooks’ latest GovCon Expert article below:
Fast Tracking Our Tech Future With Government
By GovCon Expert Chuck Brooks
The development and procurement of emerging technologies is being institutionalized throughout government, particularly in national security areas. There are a variety of new initiatives and programs that have been created to ensure that the United States is prepared for a new era of technology leadership. If you are interested in transformative technologies, it is an exciting time to follow what is happening both in industry and in government.
In October, the White House released a strategy document called the National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies. The strategy document is designed to serve as a framework and promote the national security innovation base and protect U.S. technology advantage. The strategy, developed by the National Security Council, promotes public/private partnerships to bring commercial best practices and models to prototype and assimilate emerging science & technologies and welcomes guidance from industry, think tanks, and academia. It also recognized the need for robust R&D spending in agency federal budgets. It is an adaptive and living document.
There is an interesting breakdown of tech categories. Specifically, the first version of the document provides a list of 20 critical technologies. These include:
Advanced conventional weapons technologies
Advanced engineering materials
Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear mitigation technologies
Communication and networking technologies
Data science and storage
Distributed ledger technologies
Medical and public health technologies
Quantum information science
Semiconductors and microelectronics
The Department of Defense
In parallel to the National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Information Innovation Office issued a broad agency announcement in search of “proficient artificial intelligence; advantage in cyber operations; confidence in the information domain; and resilient, adaptable and secure systems.”
The tech fusion of multiple emerging technologies is a reoccurring them in many of these government initiatives, and DARPA has played a major role for innovation in the security arena since it was established in 1958. Their mission is “to prevent strategic surprise from negatively impacting U.S. national security and create strategic surprise for U.S. adversaries by maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military. As the DoD’s primary innovation engine, DARPA undertakes projects that are finite in duration but that create lasting revolutionary change.” DARPA’s mission is integral to the success of discovering and innovating emerging technologies.
Clearly, artificial intelligence is one of the priority emerging technologies of focus in both government and industry. The Department of Defense’s (DOD) Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) is also focused on foraging for commercially available artificial intelligence technologies to use operations. JAIC said it is “specifically looking for tools that can improve the quality of DoD data, help explain AI’s decision-making, generate training data for AI, automatically label data, integrate AI with 5G capabilities, use AI for modeling and simulations and use AI for cybersecurity.” Funding for JAIC in AI is still in early stages but is already over $1 billion in 2020 FY DOD budgets.
The Department of Homeland Security
The Science & Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security (S&T, DHS) was created at the inception of DHS in 2003. The Directorate has a unique mission. A core part of that mission “is to improve homeland security by working with partners to provide state-of-the-art technology and solutions to achieve their missions.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is involved in many areas of emerging technology development, primarily via the Science and Technology Directorate. DHS S&T works closely areas of technology foraging with the DOE National Labs and Federally Funded research and Development Centers (FFRDC’s). These include some of our nation’s most recognized national Labs including Lawrence Livermore, Oak Ridge, Argonne, Sandia, Idaho National laboratory, Battelle, and Brookhaven.
The benefits of the Labs’ role include experienced capability in rapid proto typing of new technologies ready for transitioning, showcasing, and commercialization. The National Labs host some of the best scientific minds on the planet. The Labs are a reservoir of specialized skills and capabilities that are now being tapped by the private sector and government agencies.
A good way to discover emerging technology priorities and opportunities is to visit the Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Long-Range Broad Agency Announcement (LRBAA) page, The LRBAA is a “standing, open invitation to the scientific and technical communities to fund pioneering research and development (R&D) projects in support of our nation’s security. Its purpose is to advance our scientific and technical knowledge and to apply such advances to the department’s operational environments.”
The Intelligence Community
The Intelligence Community is also active in seeking emerging technologies via public private partnerships. The Intelligence Advanced Research Project Activity (IARPA) is operated under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. IARPA “endeavors to counter new capabilities implemented by our adversaries that could threaten our ability to operate freely and effectively in a networked world. [tackle some of the most difficult] [?]
“IARPA is tasked to predict rapid changes in the information technology threat landscape and often solicits input from industry and academia. Key IARPA cybersecurity research focus areas include information assurance, advanced computing technologies and architectures, quantum information science and technology, and threat detection and mitigation. IARPA’s clients are the US intelligence community. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) do have their own programs to discover and evaluate new technologies and work closely with IARPA.
Throughout government, many agencies are involved in developing new technologies. For example, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) are leading edge in developing medical technologies, genomic remedies and with biological research. The Department of Agriculture is bringing many innovations to food safety and farming, The Department of Transportation is working on autonomous cars, next gen trains, and The Department of Energy (DOE) is leading the way in quantum computing and materials science.
DOE is very involved in many of the DOD and DHS emerging tech initiatives because of their specialized expertise and their affiliation with the National Labs. To list highlights of the activities of many agencies in government might take a book.
Academia also plays a key role government in emerging technology development efforts. Numerous universities and colleges have invested in research and development in and have successfully commercialized security technologies. Many of the world’s leading academic institutions including MIT, Cal Tech, University of Chicago, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, John Hopkins, and others have contributed significantly with the creation of breakthrough technologies through basic and applied research. This is often done formally with government in designated centers of excellence, and with innovation hubs.
While national security is a predominant aspect of federal government spending and budgets, there are many societal benefits of developing emerging technologies. Christopher Darby, President and CEO of In-Q-Tel summed up those implications in testimony at a Congressional hearing earlier this year. He said that “Too often at the policy level, in the U.S. we view technology as purely an enabler of military capability.
Technology, however, also projects economic power, facilitates societal stability (or instability), and reflects norms and values. Importantly, we must also acknowledge that today it is commercial technology that provides the foundation upon which nations are built. That foundation is comprised of such things as communications networks, computing infrastructure, power grids, as well as healthcare and financial systems.”
It is reassuring to see government in cooperation with the private sector pursue strategies an programs among an array of emerging technologies in important areas such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, augmented reality, robotics, materials science, renewable energies, big data & analytics, 5G, and of course physical and digital security. Continued collaboration and investment will accelerate the pace of innovation and fast track our transforming technological future.