While many might write off the federal government as a slow and late adopter when it comes to emerging technology, the truth is that the research and development arm of the government is responsible for some of the biggest breakthroughs in technology and our society, like say, the internet. Or the mouse.
In an Aug. 17 memorandum from Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to the president in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Trump administration outlines its technology-related research and development priorities for fiscal year 2019.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights from the memorandum.
1. Support the Military of the Future
The Trump administration does not shy away from the fact that it seeks to leverage “state-of-the-art tools and technologies to defeat a growing number of emerging threats.” However, while the goal is to bolster the nation’s armed forces, the memo also acknowledges that many military technologies serve dual purposes and end up innovating for civilian use as well.
“Historically, Federal R&D investments in military technology have led to the development of breakthrough technologies that have improved lives beyond the battlefield. While military R&D should serve the national defense first and foremost, the Administration recognizes the contributions of military R&D to the development of tremendously useful civil applications. Accordingly, we encourage programs with dual-use potential to be leveraged for Federal non-military advancements,” according to the memo.
2. Increase Physical and Cybersecurity
The threats to the nation’s physical security, with a particular emphasis on border control, as well as cybersecurity, underpin one of the main objectives for the president in the years ahead. Hacks and breaches allegedly attributed to foreign nation-states such as Russia and North Korea have the administration on high alert and in search of innovation in this area.
“Agencies should invest in R&D to increase the security and resilience of the Nation’s critical infrastructure from both physical threats and cyber-attacks, which have increased rapidly in number and complexity in recent years,” the memo says. “Special attention should be paid to R&D that can support the safe and secure integration into society of new technologies that have the potential to contribute significantly to American economic and technological leadership.”
3. Prepare for America’s Prosperous Future
The campaign slogan that President Donald Trump ran on, “Make America Great Again,” is echoed in the memo’s section that highlights the use of technology to ensure and revitalize “American prosperity.” Biometrics, automation, machine learning and quantum computing are specifically called out on the administration’s wish list.
“Agencies should continue, and expand where necessary, efforts to focus on basic research in these areas and reduce funding overlaps with industry in later-stage research, development, and deployment of technologies. By providing the fundamental building blocks of new technological advances, the Government can empower the private sector to accelerate research discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace,” says the memo.
Other things touched on in the memo include the desire to remain a global leader in healthcare and medical science, guidance to avoid redundant and overlapping R&D programs, and a mandate to repurpose and utilize existing facilities and infrastructure where possible.