By James Stavridis & Frances Townsend
As the battle for global tech dominance intensifies, so too does the threat to America’s national security interests.
For years, the United States has experienced a collective assault on its technological edge from other countries. Companies, many of which are state-sponsored, have significantly increased the number of resources they invest in research and innovation with an eye toward usurping America’s position as the world’s leader in the high-tech space. China, for example, has been particularly aggressive in its investment in developing new technologies and, according to a report from the Council on Foreign Relations, will likely lead the world in R&D spending by the next decade.
It is undeniably dangerous for the U.S. to fall behind our potential adversaries in this space. Deterring growing threats from nations such as Russia, China, Iran, and others will depend on America’s ability to rapidly advance in the spheres of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics, and big data. To do this, we must keep our internet open and accessible, protect U.S. intellectual property to promote innovation in the private sector and avoid adopting policies that harm American tech companies’ global competitiveness. We must also simultaneously adopt smart policies that make it easier for the Department of Defense and intelligence community to acquire advanced technologies developed by the private sector.
America’s unique values allow the type of internet its citizens enjoy – one that is open, accessible, and welcoming of free expression and association. And one that is not used by government to suppress voices, discriminate, or mine data on citizens and eschew privacy and security. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for some other countries. As a quick scan of recent headlines will reveal, there are many bad actors out there. Countries with fundamentally different interests and values often exploit the internet for nefarious purposes – surveilling their people, censoring information, and identifying dissidents for arrest and imprisonment based on political, social, or religious speech online.