While many of the core technologies Americans use daily are, at least in part, the result of government-sponsored research with strong commercial development on the backend, federal support and funding for basic science research and for applied technology development has largely stagnated in recent decades. At the same time, American companies are being challenged by Chinese and other foreign corporate competitors largely financed by their host governments, often using stolen US technology, and who are being provided access to protected markets. As a result, there is a growing concern that the US government’s hands-off role in technology development may threaten US economic and national interests, including our military superiority.
Many critical technologies require robust investment and access to resources at a scale that has traditionally required nation-state support. And while some companies may now be reaching the economic scale to invest at a nation-state competitive level, the reality is that different decisions may be driven by market forces than national interest. As such, a core issue that must be addressed in the next decade is whether the United States should consider a national industrial strategy to support strategic technology industries to ensure sustained US global leadership and preserve our national security, and if so, how it might do so while also preserving the traditional free market principles that are at the core of American economic success.