Date:  June 30, 2014




As U.S. Scientific and Technological Investments Shrink, Defense Department Needs Better Strategy for Monitoring and Leveraging Global Science and Technology


WASHINGTON -- To remain globally competitive in science and technology (S&T), the U.S. Department of Defense should develop an implementable strategy to improve its awareness of the global S&T landscape and identify opportunities for collaboration, says a new report from the National Research Council. The department also should lower some barriers to global engagement that currently exist, such as restrictions on travel by DOD personnel to international conferences. If DOD does not monitor and leverage advances taking place in other countries, it runs the risk of losing technological competency, with severe implications for U.S. economic and national security, the report says.


“The Defense Department has long relied on its historical technological superiority to maintain military advantage,” said Ruth David, co-chair of the committee that wrote the report and president and chief executive officer of Analytic Services. “But as the U.S. share of global scientific and technological output shrinks, DOD needs to re-examine its strategy for maintaining awareness of S&T developments emerging around the world.”  


According to recent reports, the U.S. currently accounts for less than one-third of global research and development spending, and this fraction is projected to decline to 18 percent by 2050. Those statistics, together with the recognition that the U.S. no longer maintains superiority across all research fields, mean that DOD’s technological leadership now depends upon its ability to identify and leverage relevant research advances as they emerge from the global S&T enterprise, says the report, which was requested by three research offices within DOD.


DOD and its three services – Army, Navy, and Air Force -- have mechanisms in place for global S&T awareness and collaboration, the report notes; however, they are not well-integrated, and outcomes are not measured systematically to determine effectiveness. International engagement activities are done on an ad hoc basis, and information gained through monitoring or collaboration is not shared adequately within and across services or integrated effectively into overall situational awareness.  In addition, researchers at defense laboratories and research centers who wish to engage internationally face funding limitations and restrictions on travel and conference participation, and high security walls close off research activities that should be open, the report says.


These barriers not only limit DOD’s ability to maintain global awareness but will also hinder its ability to recruit and retain top science and engineering talent, the report says. Maintaining awareness by monitoring scientific publications and data analytics is useful, but it provides only a partial and often delayed picture of global S&T, and it cannot replace in-person engagement. Current policy and resource limitations, meanwhile, constrain travel.  “Right now, it is exceptionally difficult for the DOD’s science and technology workforce to be a participant in the global S&T community,” said committee co-chair Arden Bement, director of the Global Policy Research Institute at Purdue University. “The barriers that currently exist need to be lowered.”


The Army, Navy, and Air Force have science and technology field offices in other countries that offer a unique opportunity for on-the-ground engagement and network-building, the report says. However, fully taking advantage of this opportunity means that DOD must relay information gathered by the field offices throughout its network of scientists, engineers, and decision makers. There appears to be inconsistent and weak connectivity between the foreign field offices and their corresponding research offices in the U.S., and protocols for sharing knowledge gained through technology assessments or other international engagement more broadly across DOD’s research enterprise are absent, the report says. 


The committee did not identify a single best approach for maintaining global awareness, but rather believes that an integrated suite of methodologies is needed. The department should pursue a full spectrum of activities ranging from data analytics and reading emerging scientific literature, to holding and attending international scientific conferences, and to the funding of collaborative research projects. While the committee found evidence that every mechanism is being used somewhere in DOD, it found no evidence that the benefits gained in one unit are leveraged across the agency.


Successful implementation of those mechanisms requires a science and engineering workforce that is motivated, equipped, and encouraged to do so, the report says. Individuals across the Defense Department’s research enterprise must know that they are expected to retain global situational awareness in their respective scientific domains, and there must be clear advocacy and commitment from all levels of leadership for doing so.


The report was sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, independent nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter granted to NAS in 1863.  The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.  For more information, visit  A committee roster follows.




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Pre-publication copies of Strategic Engagement in Global S&T: Opportunities for Defense Research are available from the National Academies Press on the Internet at or by calling 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242.  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).


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Policy and Global Affairs Division

Board on Global Science and Technology


Committee on Globalization of Science and Technology:

Opportunities and Challenges for the Department of Defense


Arden L. Bement Jr.1 (co-chair)

Emeritus David A. Ross Distinguished Professor of Nuclear Engineering, and

Director of the Global Policy Research
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Ind.


Ruth A. David1 (co-chair)

President and Chief Executive Officer
ANSER (Analytic Services Inc.)
Falls Church, Va.


Jim C. Chang

Visiting Chair Professor

National Cheng Kung University

Tainan City, Taiwan


C.W. Chu2

Professor of Physics, T.L.L. Temple Chair of Science, Founding Director, and Chief Scientist

Texas Center for Superconductivity

University of Houston


Susan E. Cozzens

Professor of Public Policy and Vice Provost

Technology Policy and Assessment Center

School of Public Policy

Georgia Institute of Technology



Daniel E. Hastings

Dean for Undergraduate Education and Professor of Aeronautics and Engineering Systems
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Peter L. Hoffman

Vice President of Intellectual Property Management

Engineering, Operations, and Technology

The Boeing Co.



Celia Merzbacher

Vice President of Innovative Partnerships

Semiconductor Research Corp.

Research Triangle Park, N.C.


Bud Rock

Chief Executive Officer

Association of Science-Technology Centers

Washington, D.C.


James Wilsdon

Professor of Science and Democracy

University of Sussex

United Kingdom




William O. Berry

Study Director



1Member, National Academy of Engineering

2 Member, National Academy of Sciences