In the Hamilton project proposal, author Erica RH Fuchs of Carnegie Mellon University and the National Bureau of Economic Research proposes building a national capacity for analysis of mission-critical technologies to build the knowledge base, data, and analytics strategies needed to inform national technologies . Specifically, Fuchs’ proposal would:
- Create a Critical Technology Analysis (CTA) federal program focused on informing technology policy decisions of a cross-mission nature—for example, across national security, economic prosperity, and social welfare—and therefore beyond the purview of any one federal or private agency scope companies; and
- Ensure that the program has a highly flexible distributed structure that can rapidly mobilize experts from academia, industry, government laboratories and government departments.
Existing federal agencies associated with tech businesses are appropriately focused on their missions, but the U.S. lacks the knowledge base, data infrastructure, and analytics to identify opportunities for cross-mission investment value (e.g., national security, economic prosperity, social well-being) greater than its respective sum of parts.
The U.S. government lacks a systematic mechanism to assess the nation’s technological strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, as well as the long chain of suppliers involved in the production of products critical to the nation’s mission.
Two examples of how modern data and analytics (using star interdisciplinary talent from across the country) and cross-mission approaches can change outcomes include: 1) The federal government’s difficulties in facilitating the production and distribution of personal protective equipment in the spring of 2020 , and 2) the lack of clarity on the causes and solutions for semiconductor shortages. Going forward, the scaling up of electric vehicles presents similar challenges.
The U.S. government lacks a systematic mechanism to assess the nation’s technological strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities
A Critical Technology Analysis (CTA) will identify 1) how emerging technological and institutional innovations can potentially alter timely situational awareness of U.S. and global technological capabilities, 2) innovation opportunities that transform U.S. domestic and international challenges, and 3) win-win opportunities across national missions . The plan will be strategic and forward-looking, working on a timeline of months and years rather than days and weeks, and will seek to draw lessons from individual cases to inform the data and Analytical capabilities to support cross-mission critical technology policy.
To build the knowledge base and identify best practices, a pilot program aimed at bringing analytical capabilities and talent from academia and industry to key technology policy issues will precede the full CTA program. The pilot program will start with a smaller annual budget, possibly $10 million a year, funded by a combination of public and private funds.
Once established, the CTA program will receive an annual budget of about $20 million from Congress, plus about $30 million from other federal entities to fund CTA program analysis. These analyses will be done by a nationally distributed network of experts from academia and industry, as well as by dedicated staff who rotate between three to five years as project managers and translators. Teams participating in the network will be integrated across disciplines, and network membership will change as needs arise.
The program will interact extensively with other agencies. This will be formalized through a program advisory board with members drawn from government agencies as well as academia and industry, in addition to government rotating members dedicated to specific projects. Areas of study will be selected by the program director, with key input from an advisory committee.
The CTA program will generate data and analytical reports on the value of different technology investments or policy decisions under different scenarios and different government mandates, potential win-win pathways across mandates, and generalizable lessons learned. Federal agencies representing the advisory board will be required to comment publicly on how they will act on the plan’s recommendations.
What a CTA plan won’t do
Because the program must remain focused on building the knowledge base, data, and analytical tools to inform U.S. cross-mission investments in technologies critical to security, prosperity, and societal well-being, it will not:
- Solve short-term problems for a day or a week;
- Be a permanent workplace (e.g., have overall responsibility for monitoring the technology and supply chain); or
- Build long-term data infrastructure (rather than provide guidance on how other agencies should build such infrastructure).
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