Critical Technology Accessibility

There has been a steady increase in the influence of globalization on private, commercial, and national security activities in the United States. This influence has created new products, driven down the price of prod­ucts, increased the volume of goods consumed, and broadened the base for economic growth in most parts of the world. Globalization is a fact of world economic activity (DSB, 1999; NRC, 2005a). This trend means that many useful products will be available only from non-U.S. commercial sources. American military systems designers will inevitably be faced with enjoying improved performance, price, and schedule from global products or suffering the penalties of nonoptimal performance by choosing domestic products that are deemed more trusted.

To gain an improved perspective on the issue of dependence on foreign source suppliers, the Technology Warning Division (TWD) of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), with the assistance of the Standing Committee on Technology Insight—Gauge, Evaluate, and Review (TIGER), identi­fied the need for a new study. The National Research Council (NRC), asked to respond to that need, organized the Committee on Critical Tech­nology Accessibility to carry out the study. The statement of task for the committee is as follows:

The NRC will impanel an ad hoc committee of experts to respond to the following questions:

  1. What products/components/technologies currently being solely procured from foreign suppliers could significantly disrupt U.S. defense capabilities if access to them were denied (through conflict, embargo, treaty, etc.)? What countries are the principal suppliers of these products/components/technolo­gies? What would be the impact of such denial? What is the risk that such denial may occur? What alternatives should be considered and in what time frame?
  2. What emerging technologies/products that, if the United States chooses not to pursue domestic production, could significantly disrupt U.S. defense war fighting capabilities if access to them were denied? What countries might be the principal suppliers of these products/components/ technologies? What would be the impact of such denial? What alternative procurement method­ologies should be considered for future acquisitions and in what time frame?

The committee looked for but did not find an existing, exhaustive database of foreign products/components being procured by the Depart­ment of Defense (DoD) and decided to not attempt to develop such a database on current foreign sourcing across the vast numbers of DoD sys­tems. Nor did the committee assess, for each foreign component, the im­pact of denial on operational capability or try to understand the particular mitigation opportunities and consequences. Finally, it did not develop a collective assessment of the technological and industrial trajectories of emerging technologies that promise to be key to our nation’s security. The size and scope of such an effort would have exceeded the time and resources available to the committee, and it became clear from the information pro­vided to it and from its deliberations that this was not the right approach.

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