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House panel urges intelligence community to step up science and technology efforts

House panel urges intelligence community to step up science and technology efforts
© Greg Nash

A House Intelligence Committee subcommittee on Tuesday urged the intelligence community to take steps to boost its science and technology innovation work, warning that without improvements, the U.S. could fall behind other nations including China.

The Subcommittee on Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research issued a report recommending a series of steps to ensure the U.S. could keep pace on the international stage with technologies including quantum computing, 5G and artificial intelligence, but warned that there was no time to lose.

“We must act now,” the subcommittee wrote in the report. “Studies, reports and commissions have warned for decades about the risks to national security from the steady erosion in our innovative capacity. Those risks are no longer abstract or speculative. They are upon us and presenting us with ever more adversity and ever more limited policy options.”

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Recommendations included the reestablishment of the Office of Technology Assessment in the House of Representatives, a nonpartisan agency that provided guidance to Congress on technology-related legislation. It was closed in 1995 after the then-GOP controlled House cut its funding. 

Other recommendations include improving private sector collaboration, improving science and technology education to build a future workforce, establishing an Intelligence Innovation Board and strengthening and focusing science and technology leadership within the intelligence community. 

The subcommittee also stressed the need for the U.S. to lead on the establishment of norms and standards on science and technology, particularly in order to combat increasing cybersecurity threats, pointing to both foreign threats to U.S. elections and cyberattacks against major U.S. companies. 

“Because cyberattacks currently transcend the usual bounds of national security to threaten almost all aspects of modern life, the United States must create and promulgate globally accepted norms in the emerging technology arena,” the subcommittee wrote. 

The full House Intelligence Committee approved the report for public release by a voice vote.

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“Taken together, the threats facing our country — from an ascendant China and intractable Russia, to climate change and pandemics, to new disputes in space and cyberspace — are daunting, and require the Intelligence Community to be forward-thinking and pragmatic,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump tells GSA that Biden transition can begin Hillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract Democrats accuse GSA of undermining national security by not certifying Biden win MORE (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “That’s why it’s absolutely critical that the IC develop common solutions rooted in technology and innovation. By making the right investments today — in people, programs and partnerships — we will strengthen our future security."

Subcommittee Chairman Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesDemocrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy MORE (D-Conn.) said in a statement Tuesday that “in order to maintain dominance in technological advancement in the intelligence field and beyond, we need to leverage our greatest strengths as a nation.”

“There is no country on Earth that has more raw talent and entrepreneurial spirit across the private and public sectors than the United States,” Himes noted. “If we can make the investment now to harness that quintessentially American, innovative energy, and nurture an open and agile environment, we will continue to lead. But there’s no time to lose as our adversaries are nipping at our heels.”

The report is the second assessment issued by the overall House Intelligence Committee in the last week. A previous report issued last week found that the intelligence community was not equipped to face threats from China in the technological and political arenas, also potentially endangering national security. 

The report released Tuesday emphasized threats from China, noting that in order to compete, the U.S. needs to rethink its strategies. 

“Taken together, these recommendations suggest that the U.S. does not necessarily need to ‘beat China at its own game’ of more centrally directed, hierarchical, planned innovation,” the subcommittee wrote. “Instead, we need to do better in the distinctly American direction of openness, flexibility and agility.”