New task force to examine 21st century 'national security innovation base'

March 6, 2019 at 12:11 PM

A Reagan Institute task force comprised of lawmakers, former defense officials and industry executives is set to examine the "national security innovation base" and what the United States needs to achieve technologically to prevail in great power competition.

The "Task Force on 21st Century National Security Technology and Workforce," announced by the Reagan Institute last month, will look beyond the traditional defense industry to the future technologies and workforces critical to U.S. national security, according to institute Director Roger Zakheim.

The Trump administration's National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy both highlight the importance of the "national security innovation base," but neither document offers a detailed definition, Zakheim noted in a call with reporters today.

"It's not entirely clear what belongs within that national security innovation base," Zakheim said. "It seems to be kind of a layer above the defense industrial base or outside the traditional defense industrial base, but [at the] same time, it's highly relevant and related to it."

The commission will be co-chaired by former Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO), now a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

Zakheim said he hopes the panel will delve into technology areas like hypersonic vehicles, artificial intelligence and 5G. He said the panel will explore why they are important to the future of U.S. national security and what the United States needs to do to stay ahead of competitor nations like China.

"The question we have here is, within the technological environment, where are we vis-a-vis our competitors, and maybe we need to prioritize a little bit across these technologies," he said. "There are some that come up in the press all the time. Is that a reflection of priorities, or are others out there that are equally or perhaps even more important, that are under-reported or not discussed?"

Rachel Hoff, policy director at the Reagan Institute, said the commission would also "zoom out" and compare the United States' approach to technological innovation with that of China and other competitors.

"Our different approaches, our different systems, our different ways of thinking about technological advancements and deployments themselves are worthy of consideration," Hoff said. "And we need to make sure we're understanding that as we try to lean into our own advantages and exploit the weaknesses of our competitors."

The commission will begin meeting within the next month and aims to produce a final report with recommendations by the time the 2019 Reagan National Defense Forum is held in early December.

In addition to Talent and Work, the commission includes Textron Chief Executive Officer Lisa Atherton, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), former Senate Armed Services Committee Staff Director Christian Brose, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Rep. Stephanie Murphey (D-FL), Qualcomm General Counsel Donald Rosenberg, former deputy national security adviser Nadia Schadlow, former Defense Innovation Unit chief Raj Shah and former State Department official Matthew Waxman.