The Insider

White House stakes out R&D priorities for 2020 budget

July 31, 2018 at 3:35 PM

The White House is directing federal agencies to prioritize certain technologies in their fiscal year 2020 budget submissions, including artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences and other investments related to national security. 

In a July 31 memo to the heads of executive departments and agencies, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney lays out the administration's priorities for FY-20 research and development, with national security technologies at the top of the list. The memo was also signed by Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to the president within the office of science and technology policy.

The memo points to the National Security Strategy, stating, "as adversaries leverage emerging technologies to threaten the nation, it is imperative that we invest in R&D to maintain military superiority and keep the American people safe."

"This requires prioritized investment in AI, autonomous systems, hypersonics, a modernized nuclear deterrent, and advanced microelectronics, computing, and cyber capabilities," the memo continues. "Advanced cyber capabilities at scale require investment in new computing and technology paradigms, including adaptive and automated defensive measures."

It also directs agencies to invest in areas "to improve the security and resilience of the nation and its critical infrastructure from natural hazards, physical threats, cyber-attacks, and emerging threats from autonomous systems and biological agents." Additionally, technologies that improve border surveillance should be prioritized, according to the memo.

Quantum information sciences, artificial intelligence and strategic computing are another priority area.

"Agencies should invest in fundamental and applied AI research, including machine learning, autonomous systems, and applications at the human-technology frontier," the memo states.

Communications networks and autonomy, manufacturing, commercial space exploration, energy dominance, medical innovation and agriculture are R&D priorities for the administration.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is expected to significantly re-tool its research and development program in the FY-20 budget, with 10 priority areas being mapped out this summer by Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin.