Washington, DC – To maintain leadership in an increasingly competitive era, protect national security and promote economic growth, the United States must prioritize technological innovation, said the new Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Michael Kratsios, in his first public appearance in the role. He joined Jason Matheny, founding director of the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), to discuss the challenges and opportunities inherent in defense innovation.
Matheny noted that Kratsios is now responsible for research, development and prototyping activities across the Pentagon’s many offices and entities, and is “one of the most effective champions for technology that I’ve met.”
Only the second person to serve as Under Secretary for R&E — the fourth-highest ranking spot at the Pentagon — Kratsios oversees a $60 billion research and development budget. He said he will focus on three priorities: leveraging the department’s unique authorities to test and evaluate new technology, reimagining the role of federal R&D and engagement with the private sector, and engaging with international allies to diversify R&D and increase interoperability.
Asked how his extensive private sector experience before becoming the U.S. Chief Technology Officer in 2017 — a position he continues to hold — has informed his new role, Kratsios replied, “I think that what I have generally worked on for over three and a half years is really emphasizing and homing in on the importance of American leadership in emerging technologies. This is absolutely critical for our nation’s national security, for economic growth, and for the American worker, and if we can lead in these core technologies, all those areas are going to benefit.”
Kratsios pointed out that while the Defense Department oversees a broad constellation of R&D organizations, the U.S. tech sector plays a key role in bolstering American innovation and security. In particular, the DoD must work to build connections with the private sector and attract high-skilled talent to the U.S. government — even on a short-term basis, through fellowships and the Defense Innovation Unit, to be “a part of this unimaginably amazing mission we have here at the Pentagon.
“It’s a story that I think touches so many Americans, and it’s so obvious that many people will want to be a part of this,” Kratsios said. “I’m excited to share that message and show them that there’s incredible places where they can make a difference for this country here at the Pentagon.”
The video of the pre-recorded speech and conversation can be found on CSET’s website.
A policy research organization within Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) produces data-driven research at the intersection of security and technology, providing nonpartisan analysis to the policy community. CSET is currently focusing on the effects of progress in artificial intelligence and advanced computing. It seeks to prepare a new generation of decision-makers to address the challenges and opportunities of emerging technologies.