Showcasing our researchers’ work and their latest media appearances as they weigh in on developments at the intersection of national security and emerging technology.
CSET Director Dewey Murdick wrote an opinion piece in Nature on how subject matter experts can inform policy decisions, and what they must do to convey actionable information to non-technical audiences. Among his observations: “Experts who gain an audience are tempted to launch into their latest results, rather than focusing on the ‘so what’ — why should policymakers care — and why this issue is more important than other priorities.” Drawing from his own experiences on both sides of this conversation, Murdick shared how scientists and other technical experts can inform vital national security decisions. “I’ve seen what researchers trained as policy analysts can contribute,” he wrote. Consider the US CHIPS and Science Act, signed this August, which will infuse billions of dollars into semiconductor research and manufacturing. Vulnerabilities in the technology and supply chain in this industry were uncovered decades ago. It took connecting the issue with national and economic security to spark action. A few policy analysts at CSET contributed to this perspective shift with a series of actionable reports and the willingness to do the work to implement them.”
Murdick’s testimony earlier this year before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on what the United States can do to counter China’s technological development strategy was cited in Tech Times, which wrote about the burgeoning virtual reality sector in China.
In an opinion piece for Foreign Affairs, Senior Fellow Emelia Probasco and coauthor Christine Fox discussed the relationship between the U.S government and technology companies in military conflict, specifically in Ukraine. The authors described how the Ukraine conflict differs from other instances of public-private partnership in wartime. “Technology companies ranging from Microsoft to Silicon Valley start-ups have provided cyberdefense, surveillance, and reconnaissance services—not by direction of a government contract or even as a part of a government plan but instead through the independent decision-making of individual companies,” they noted. While most technology companies are aligned with the U.S. national security objectives in Ukraine, Probasco and Fox urged the U.S. government “to build relationships and a plan for coordination in the midst of the crisis in Ukraine and before another crisis emerges elsewhere.” The authors called for continued communication and collaboration between the U.S. government and technology companies so “these relationships could also help government officials understand and anticipate the capabilities that an adversary’s corporations could bring to a conflict since tech companies are often more aware of the threat posed by competitors. And continuous interaction will help to establish communication pipelines for the unanticipated challenges inevitable in future conflicts.”
Nextgov reached out to Research Analyst Jack Corrigan to learn more about his report Banned in D.C., coauthored with Michael Kratsios and Sergio Fontanez. Their report found that at least 1,681 state and local entities in 49 states purchased information and communications technology and services, or ICTS, from five banned Chinese companies between 2015 and 2021. “If we see untrustworthy foreign technology as a national security issue, then it needs to be handled by every level of government,” Corrigan said. Federal services and agencies are already focused on removing foreign ICTS, but efforts can be broadened to focus more on state and local government procurement processes. Currently Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Vermont have “adopted measures to restrict the purchase of untrustworthy ICTS on national security grounds,” but according to the report, “these regulations are generally not structured to deal with foreign technology threats effectively.” “It’s likely impossible to replace every deployment of untrustworthy foreign technology across the U.S., so policymakers should allocate these funds to the areas with the greatest potential security risks,” Corrigan recommended. The report was also featured in stories by Fox News, Axios, DefenseOne,StateScoop,and China Tech Threat.
Drawing from their report, Corrigan and Kratsios explained the difficulties of removing Chinese technology from U.S. supply chains in an opinion piece for Foreign Policy. State and local government agencies across the United States are still purchasing and installing banned Chinese technology. The authors’ analysis of public procurement records revealed that nearly 1,700 state and local agencies purchased products and services connected to the five Chinese companies on the federal blacklist between 2015 and 2021. Along with security threats, the authors highlight the economic risk behind U.S. dependencies on Chinese critical technologies. They warn that “if U.S. policymakers do not construct a more unified defense against foreign technology threats, the country will remain vulnerable to potentially devastating attacks.”
China’s self-reliance in science and technology was at the forefront of President Xi Jinping’s address before the 20th Communist Party Congress, Axios reported. In order for China to become a global leader in science and a technological powerhouse, he laid out key goals to improve China’s innovation system, one of them being evolving its State Key Laboratories, labs that conduct cutting-edge basic and applied research, attract and train domestic and foreign talent, and conduct academic exchanges with foreign counterparts. Beijing aspires for more cooperation with other countries, but China’s scientific collaborations along the Belt and Road Initiative with countries like Russia are “still nascent — their ties with U.S. and allies are still more important,” said Research Analyst Cole McFaul. For China to accomplish its S&T goals, recruiting STEM experts is a key takeaway, but “domestic investments are also really important and shouldn’t be discounted,” said McFaul. China has also heavily invested in its university system with China producing more STEM PhDs than the United States.
Xi’s address before the 20th Communist Party Congress also emphasized an economic restructuring for technological self-sufficiency amid newly-imposed U.S. export controls. Research Analyst Ngor Luong told Newsweek that Xi’s speech reaffirmed a desire for economic self-sufficiency through his “dual circulation” model, which seeks to reduce domestic dependencies while ensuring the Chinese market remains vital to others. “We see the term ‘security’ coming up a lot lately and this idea of the securitization of economic and technological policy,” Luong said. “He’s combining economic security with broader national security—how to guard China against exogenous changes like the U.S.’s export controls. There’s a greater emphasis and desire to safeguard China against these vulnerabilities.”
Concerns over the potential use of advanced technology for military purposes has the U.S. government considering blocking China from accessing U.S.-produced emerging technologies like quantum computing and artificial intelligence software. Marketplace reached out to Data Research Analyst Jacob Feldgoise to learn more about the effects of U.S. export controls on China. Feldgoise noted that export controls can also have negative repercussions in the United States. “The downside we’ve already seen is that it will certainly harm to some extent the profits of U.S. companies,” he said.
Bloomberg turned to Research Fellow Emily Weinstein for an article on export controls on semiconductors to China that were recently imposed by the Biden administration, writing that the new regulations are the culmination of a shift in American thinking about technology and trade. “It obviously ramped up during the Trump administration,” Weinstein said, “but even during the Obama administration we began to see a rethinking of how we use export controls as a tool in our arsenal.”
Spotlight on CSET Experts: Jack Corrigan
Jack Corrigan is a Research Analyst focused on talent and research security. Prior to joining CSET, he worked as a journalist covering federal tech and cybersecurity for Nextgov, an Atlantic Media publication.
His reports include Banned in D.C., AI Faculty Shortages, The Long-Term Stay Rates of International STEM PhD Graduates, and more. His writing has been featured in a variety of outlets, including Axios, Breaking Defense, Nextgov, Reuters, and Politico.
Interested in speaking with Jack or our other experts? Contact External Affairs Specialist Adrienne Thompson at email@example.com.