Critical technologies promise to upend traditional understandings of national security, economic prosperity, and everyday life. Artificial intelligence, semiconductors, quantum information technologies, biotechnologies, and related technology areas are applicable to a range of industries, from defense and logistics to agriculture and medicine. These technologies, which afford nation-states new tools and vulnerabilities, have become a crux of U.S.-China competition, and a prominent part of cooperation and contention with allies and partners. CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation around the policy challenges associated with critical technologies and how the United States can maintain its technological superiority in the digital age. Continue reading this edition of Sharper to explore their ideas and recommendations.
DoD Autonomous Weapons Policy
In January, the U.S. Defense Department (DoD) released an updated version of its policy on autonomous weapons, DoD Directive 3000.09, Autonomy in Weapon Systems. This was the first major policy update since 2012. In this CNAS Noteworthy, Vice President and Director of Studies Paul Scharre breaks down the new Directive and what it means for the U.S. military’s approach to lethal autonomous weapon systems. Dr. Scharre led the DoD working group that drafted the original DoD directive 3000.09 in 2012.
Networked: Techno-Democratic Statecraft for Australia and the Quad
A strategic competition is underway—and technology stands at its core. Technology-leading countries will drive the digital economy, gain political power and military strength, and shape global norms for technology use. In a CNAS report, author Martijn Rasser lays out a blueprint for techno-democratic statecraft in the Quad. This report examines the technologies propelling rapid change, the competing visions for technology use driving geopolitical strains, and the opportunities and challenges posed by Quad members' approaches to technology.
Myths and Realities of China’s Military-Civil Fusion Strategy
Beijing’s drive to create stronger linkages between its civilian economy and defense industrial base has started to draw considerable attention in Washington. In a CNAS report, experts Elsa B. Kania and Lorand Laskai dispel four prominent myths about China’s efforts in military-civil fusion (MCF). Their report seeks to improve policymakers’ understanding of the challenges MCF presents while enhancing the U.S. government’s ability to grapple with these issues.
CNAS Biotech Task Force Issues Statement of Purpose
Biotechnology is primed to transform global society and the geopolitical landscape. Breakthroughs in areas including synthetic biology and genomic editing, next generation pharmaceuticals, and bioinformatics are already revolutionizing how we build and manufacture, treat and prevent illness, grow food, generate and store energy, and tackle existential threats from pandemics to climate change. Some advances have the potential to open new domains and capabilities in warfare, such as human performance enhancement and medical care, or for misuse by adversaries, such as with biological weapons. Established in November 2022, the CNAS Biotech Task Force develops pragmatic policy recommendations to address acute biosecurity challenges such as bioterrorism and bolster American competitiveness across the biotechnology landscape.
Sand in the Silicon: Designing an Outbound Investment Controls Mechanism
While broad outbound investment screening authorities were ultimately dropped from the CHIPS and Science Act, the debate over outbound investment is far from over. The concept of outbound investment controls has gained bipartisan support in Congress and the administration has also endorsed the idea. New authorities with new powers are likely in the coming year, but significant challenges remain in designing an outbound investment mechanism. The Energy, Economics, and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security and the Atlantic Council GeoEconomics Center have joined together to develop pragmatic recommendations for designing workable outbound investment screening authorities.
A Conversation with Under Secretary of Commerce Alan F. Estevez
The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security issued a rule that imposes significant new export controls designed to limit the development, purchase, production, and use of semiconductors, semiconductor manufacturing equipment, and supercomputers in China. To discuss the rationale behind and the scope, scale, and implementation of these new controls, CNAS hosted Alan F. Estevez, Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security, for a moderated discussion and a question and answer session with Martijn Rasser, Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and National Security program.
How to Stop the Next World War
"Our efforts to help restore the technological prowess of the U.S. military started six years ago in a Pentagon conference room," write Robert O. Work and Eric Schmidt in The Atlantic. "One of us, a former executive and tech innovator in Silicon Valley, was then serving as the head of the Defense Innovation Board, created to match the needs of the Department of Defense with America’s most advanced technologies. The other was the deputy secretary of defense, reworking the U.S. military’s strategy for the growing competition among the world’s great powers. Though we’d never met before, we quickly realized we had reached the same conclusion: In failing to adapt to the changing character of warfare and great-power competition, America risked setting itself up for a catastrophic defeat."
How to Win Friends and Choke China’s Chip Supply
"Washington should proactively work with partners to mitigate the economic effects of the new controls, providing clarity and predictability for industry participants with investment timelines that stretch over a decade," argues Emily Kilcrease in War on the Rocks. "Guidance on future licensing policy, as well as exemptions from the extraterritorial aspects of the new rules for those countries that implement substantially similar controls, should feature prominently in the ongoing negotiations. The ultimate objective should not be to have all partners implement identical controls. Instead, U.S. officials should prioritize aligning controls with other major producer nations to target the most significant technology chokepoints and the areas where the risk of backfilling U.S. technologies is highest."
The China-U.S. Quantum Race
"Quantum researchers in China claim to have an algorithm capable of breaking public-key encryption, years before anyone expected," writes Sam Howell in The Diplomat. "Accurate or not, the announcement serves as a reminder that surprising quantum breakthroughs are possible in the near term. If the Biden administration is serious about its designation of quantum information science (QIS) as a critical technology area for national security, it must do more to safeguard U.S. quantum superiority."
In the News
Featuring commentary and analysis from Martijn Rasser, Lisa Curtis, Becca Wasser, Sam Howell, and Jennifer McArdle.
About the Sharper Series
The CNAS Sharper series features curated analysis and commentary from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy. From the future of America's relationship with China to the state of U.S. sanctions policy and more, each collection draws on the reports, interviews, and other commentaries produced by experts across the Center to explore how America can strengthen its competitive edge.
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