New Report Provides Praise But Caution for U.S. Competitive Position

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Publication date: 
25 April 1995
Number: 
58

"This is one of the best arguments I have seen for continued
Federal support of dual-use technology research and development --
our very economic and security future may depend on it."   
     -- John H. Gibbons, Assistant to the President for Science and
Technology

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
released a report last month that the Administration will likely
use to argue for support of its cooperative programs with industry.
The 197-page "National Critical Technologies Report," the third in
a biennial series, reviews the United States' competitive position
in seven broad technology categories, and 27 specific technology
areas, in comparison with the positions of Japan and the European
Community.

While the report concludes that the U.S. is either leading or at
parity with its competitors in all 27 of the categories identified,
it warns that the size of the U.S. lead in many areas is declining.
According to John Gibbons, the President's Assistant for Science
and Technology and director of OSTP, "This report documents the
very tenuous lead we maintain in many of the technologies critical
to our military and economic well-being at the very same time that
the new Congressional leadership proposes to gut the very core of
our strategy to preserve American preeminence in these critical
areas.  What is also abundantly clear in this report is the degree
to which certain key technologies - such as information technology,
manufacturing processes, sensor development, and advanced materials
- are crucial to both military and economic security.....  The next
generation of military systems and capabilities requires superior
technology in five of seven major technology categories, including
21 of 27 critical areas surveyed by the report."

The report was prepared by OSTP with assistance from the Critical
Technologies Institute, and reviewed informally by an independent
panel of public- and private-sector leaders.  The technologies
surveyed were identified from various Defense Department documents.
The categories and areas examined are:  Energy: energy efficiency;
storage, conditioning, distribution, and transmission; and improved
generation.  Environmental Quality: monitoring and assessment;
pollution control; and remediation and restoration.  Information
and Communication: components; communications, computer systems;
information management; intelligent complex adaptive systems;
sensors; and software and toolkits.  Living Systems: biotechnology;
medical technology; agriculture and food technology; and human
factors.  Manufacturing: discrete product manufacturing; continuous
materials processing; and micro/nanofabrication and machining.
Materials: materials; structures.  Transportation: aerodynamics;
avionics and controls; propulsion and power; systems integration;
and human interface.

According to the report, critical technologies fall under the
"applied research" and "development" portion of the federal R&D
portfolio.  The document is intended to identify necessary areas of
focus for the federal R&D effort, and to coordinate federal R&D
policy with a common set of priorities.  A copy of the report can
be obtained from RAND (contact:  Linda Tanner, (202) 296-5000,
x5692.)