Findings and Recommendations
This report identifies some of the major challenges confronting the intelligence technology warning community but makes no attempt to prioritize specific emerging technologies for more detailed analysis. Instead, the committee describes broad trends, discusses a prototype methodology that may be of value in focusing future collaborations, and “employs” that methodology on a disparate set of evolving technologies that may threaten U.S. military preeminence.
COLLABORATION WITH EXTERNAL SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL COMMUNITIES
The committee postulated in Chapter 1 and illustrated in Chapters 3 through 6 that the information technology, biotechnology, microtechnology, and nanotechnology families will increasingly provide building blocks of a foundational nature for military-relevant capabilities for RED (adversarial) and BLUE (U.S. military) forces alike. The fact that significant advances in these technologies will be driven largely by commercial demand—on a global scale—rather than by military-specific investment suggests the need for the technology warning community to engage the nongovernmental scientific and technical community in order to bolster its understanding and anticipation of technology trends.
Finding 1: There is a multitude of evolving technologies for which advances are being driven by the nongovernmental, global, scientific and technical communities.
While globalization has been underway for several decades, its intensity and pervasiveness have greatly increased in magnitude and pace; the technology playing field is accordingly undergoing massive change. Technology research and development (R&D), historically dominated by the United States, is increasingly distributed. Small, research-seeded start-up companies are of special importance in the generation of high-technology ideas and products. What this means is that the U.S. defense establishment is no longer in the driver’s seat with regard to militarily relevant technological innovation.
Recommendation 1: The Defense Intelligence Agency Technology Warning Division, together with the related intelligence community components that focus on technology warning, should establish an ongoing collaborative relationship with the scientific and technical communities in the industrial and academic sectors.
The National Academies, through the National Research Council, provide both a window into these communities and an appropriate institutional mechanism that could assist in this endeavor. This ad hoc committee, which will be disbanded with the publication of the present report, believes that a standing committee could more effectively support the needs of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The short-term effort of this committee was hampered by the lack of time to build a shared understanding of the Technology Warning Division’s operating environment and to establish the collaborations necessary to adequately leverage the additional expertise readily accessible via the National Academies through the National Research Council. The establishment of a standing committee would help overcome these impediments and provide the foundation for an ongoing collaborative relationship.
INDICATORS RELATING TO GLOBALIZATION AND COMMERCIALIZATION
The forces of globalization and commercialization that are altering the world in terms of the potential for “technology surprise” require new approaches to the identification of indicators for providing technology warning. Throughout this report the committee focused largely on observables derived from open sources, but other potentially valuable sources exist (e.g., confidential discussions with industrial and academic researchers that may yield valuable insights for the technology warning community while protecting proprietary information). Although a diverse array of potential sources is identified in the preceding chapters, the individual sources were not vetted and the committee did not conduct a disciplined evaluation of the completeness of the array, nor did it make any effort to deconflict its sources with those already in use by the community.
Finding 2: New intelligence indicators are likely to be needed to provide technology warning for the diverse spectrum of evolving technologies that are being driven by commercial forces in the global marketplace.
Traditionally, the United States has assumed that it leads the world in science and technology. This perspective leads the technology warning community to look for indications that external actors are trying to “catch up,” or to exploit known technologies in new ways. Projected future trends suggest that it should no longer be automatically assumed that the United States will lead in all relevant technologies. This revised perspective imposes a new burden on the technology warning community, generating the need for it to search in different places and in different ways to be able to warn against technological surprise.
Recommendation 2: The Defense Intelligence Agency Technology Warning Division, in collaboration with the related intelligence community components that focus on technology warning, should establish, maintain, and systematically analyze a comprehensive array of indicators pertaining to globalization and commercialization of science and technology to complement and focus intelligence collection and analysis.
The committee believes that the observables identified in this report provide a useful baseline. However, it acknowledges that the first step should be to decompose the broad trends into potential observables more systematically and then to evaluate the utility and applicability of techniques already in use in Open Source Intelligence analysis. For example, while patterns and trends in R&D investments provide useful indicators of the distributed research talent, the globalization of manufacturing facilities may indicate an equally important trend in distributing systems integration expertise. The committee acknowledges that not all important technological advances will occur in this arena, so long-standing approaches to detecting covert advances will continue to be important. However, the committee believes that trends in the global technology marketplace warrant focused strategies.
NEED FOR DISCIPLINED METHODOLOGY
As previously observed, the technology warning landscape is both diverse and complex—particularly given the need to consider not only discrete technologies but also innovative integration and application to multidisciplinary system capabilities. The committee believes that a systematic approach is needed to avoid the trap of simply generating more lists of technologies that will have military significance in the coming years. The committee recognizes, however, that too much rigor could effectively create a new set of blinders that could lead to future “failures of imagination.”
Finding 3: The landscape of potentially important evolving technologies is both vast and diverse. A disciplined approach is thus needed to facilitate optimal allocation of the limited resources available to the technology warning community.
The committee reviewed a diverse array of lists of technologies—each prioritized from a different perspective. Some lists focus on potential “disruptive” technologies that could have catastrophic consequences in the hands of adversaries, while others focus on technologies with significant commercial potential that may erode the U.S. technological edge. The committee believes that the technology warning community would benefit from a disciplined approach to the identification and prioritization of the evolving technologies that may threaten U.S. military preeminence.
Recommendation 3: The Defense Intelligence Agency Technology Warning Division, in collaboration with the related intelligence community components that focus on technology warning, should adopt a capabilities-based framework within which to identify and assess potential technology-based threats.
The committee believes that a capabilities-based methodology enables a systematic approach to technology warning while reducing the tendency to focus only on advances in discrete technologies. The methodology presented as a prototype in this report was derived from Joint Vision 2020. It is offered as a starting point; the committee acknowledges that additional refinement is needed.
The technology warning community, which plays a vital role in advising military leadership, is facing unprecedented challenges. BLUE force strategies are increasingly dependent upon technology-
enabled capabilities assembled from building-block technologies in which U.S. technological leadership is no longer assured. Foreign governments and nonstate actors are gaining access to the same building-block technologies—often via the commercial marketplace. The committee applauds the Defense Intelligence Agency’s recognition that unprecedented challenges require new collaborations and new approaches, and commends the efforts already underway.