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NEWS | Nov. 8, 2021

Tech Advantage Critical to Prevail in Strategic Competition With China, DOD Official Says

By Terri Moon Cronk

WASHINGTON -- Technological capability on an ongoing basis is critical to the United States maintaining its edge against other nations, such as China, Michael Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit, said yesterday.

At the 2021 Aspen Security Forum in Washington, D.C., Brown discussed preserving the United States' technological edge and quickly getting new technology into the hands of U.S. warfighters.

Spotlight: Engineering in the DOD

"We need technological advantage to prevail in this strategic competition with China," the DIU director said. "For the military, that means that we've got to modernize faster. We [have] got to use more commercial technology."

Brown added that requirements in acquisition and budgeting must again work for the Pentagon. "I've been leading DIU for three years now, and what I see is [that] we're not going fast enough. We're not transforming at the scale that we need to make changes to address the threat with China."

Brown agreed that the human capital in the United States' volunteer force is extraordinary, citing earlier comments by Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, director of the National Security Agency, and chief of the Central Security Service. "What I've seen firsthand in terms of the capability and dedication to mission is phenomenal. It's impressive. We owe it to those [service] men and women to give them the best tools. We ought to have an incredible sense of urgency and impatience and courage to change those 60-year-old processes to give them the best so they have adequate tools to do their jobs, which is what's important to all of us to keep us safe," he said.

Spotlight: Science and Tech

"We're losing that [technological] edge, and we're losing it at a rapid rate," Brown said, adding that the United States needs a recommitment to science and technology. "It involves STEM talent. Where is our program to increase STEM talent? We need that in the military. And we need moonshots to inspire people, just like we had during the space race. We need that kind of resurgence of excitement about what we can do in science and technology, and how that's going to enable economic prosperity for the next 20, 30 or 40 years. China's doing that long-term thinking, and we have to, as well."

Investing in technology is something China has been doing, he said, and that's where well-paying jobs are. "That's why [China is] focused on creating the standards for industries for the next 10 or 20 years with what they call 'China's standards 2035,'" he said, noting that China wants to displace the United States, Canada, and all Western countries and companies with its own capabilities.

"We don't want to live in that world," Brown said.

It's important for the United States to not sit back and become complacent and think it has a corner on technology or innovation, he said.

"If we don't invest, if we don't have the right talent, if we're not focused on the fact that this is a tech race, we're not going to be happy with the outcome," Brown said.

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