National Security Strategy Highlights Importance of S&T and STEM Education

Last week the Obama Administration released a document outlining a broadly encompassing strategy for rebuilding the nation’s strength and influence that looks beyond military might. In a cover letter accompanying the strategy, President Obama declares “Simply put, we must see American innovation as a foundation of American power.”

U.S.-Captiol-StepsYet even as we have maintained our military advantage, our competitiveness has been set back in recent years. We are recovering from underinvestment in the areas that are central to America’s strength. We have not adequately advanced priorities like education, energy, science and technology, and health care – all of which are essential to U.S. competitiveness, long-term prosperity, and strength.” – National Security Strategy

Last week the Obama Administration released a document outlining a broadly encompassing strategy for rebuilding the nation’s strength and influence that looks beyond military might. In a cover letter accompanying the strategy, President Obama declares “Simply put, we must see American innovation as a foundation of American power.”

The 60-page “National Security Strategy” is divided into four sections: Overview of National Security Strategy, Strategic Approach, Advancing Our Interests, and Conclusion. The section entitled Advancing Our Interests includes a subsection “Prosperity” which states the following under the heading Strengthen Education and Human Capital:

Invest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education (STEM): America’s long-term leadership depends on educating and producing future scientists and innovators. We will invest more in STEM education so students can learn to think critically in science, math, engineering, and technology; improve the quality of math and science teaching so American students are no longer outperformed by those in other nations; and expand STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and girls. We will work with partners – from the private-sector and nonprofit organizations to universities – to promote education and careers in science and technology.”

Under the following heading, “Enhance Science, Technology and Innovation,” the Strategy explains:

“Reaffirming America’s role as the global engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation has never been more critical. Challenges like climate change, pandemic disease, and resource scarcity demand new innovation. Meanwhile, the nation that leads the world in building a clean energy economy will enjoy a substantial economic and security advantage. That is why the Administration is investing heavily in research, improving education in science and math, promoting developments in energy, and expanding international cooperation.

Transform our Energy Economy: As long as we are dependent on fossil fuels, we need to ensure the security and free flow of global energy resources. But without significant and timely adjustments, our energy dependence will continue to undermine our security and prosperity. This will leave us vulnerable to energy supply disruptions and manipulation and to changes in the environment on an unprecedented scale.

“The United States has a window of opportunity to lead in the development of clean energy technology. If successful, the United States will lead in this new Industrial Revolution in clean energy that will be a major contributor to our economic prosperity. If we do not develop the policies that encourage the private sector to seize the opportunity, the United States will fall behind and increasingly become an importer of these new energy technologies.

“We have already made the largest investment in clean energy in history, but there is much more to do to build on this foundation. We must continue to transform our energy economy, leveraging private capital to accelerate deployment of clean energy technologies that will cut greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency, increase use of renewable and nuclear power, reduce the dependence of vehicles on oil, and diversify energy sources and suppliers. We will invest in research and next-generation technology, modernize the way we distribute electricity, and encourage the usage of transitional fuels, while moving towards clean energy produced at home.

Invest in Research: Research and development is central to our broader national capacity. Incidents like the outbreak of H1N1 influenza and the challenge of identifying new, renewable sources of energy highlight the importance of research in basic and applied science. We are reversing the decades-long decline in federal funding for research, including the single largest infusion to basic science research in American history. Research and innovation is not something government can do on its own, which is why we will support and create incentives to encourage private initiatives. The United States has always excelled in our ability to turn science and technology into engineering and products, and we must continue to do so in the future.

Expand International Science Partnerships: America’s scientific leadership has always been widely admired around the world, and we must continue to expand cooperation and partnership in science and technology. We have launched a number of Science Envoys around the globe and are promoting stronger relationships between American scientists, universities, and researchers and their counterparts abroad. We will reestablish a commitment to science and technology in our foreign assistance efforts and develop a strategy for international science and national security.

Employ Technology to Protect our Nation: Our renewed commitment to science and technology – and our ability to apply the ingenuity of our public and private sectors toward the most difficult foreign policy and security challenges of our time – will help us protect our citizens and advance U.S. national security priorities. These include, for example, protecting U.S. and allied forces from asymmetric attacks; supporting arms control and nonproliferation agreements; preventing terrorists from attacking our homeland; preventing and managing widespread disease outbreaks; securing the supply chain; detecting weapons of mass destruction before they reach our borders; and protecting our information, communication, and transportation infrastructure.

Leverage and Grow our Space Capabilities: For over 50 years, our space community has been a catalyst for innovation and a hallmark of U.S. technological leadership. Our space capabilities underpin global commerce and scientific advancements and bolster our national security strengths and those of our allies and partners. To promote security and stability in space, we will pursue activities consistent with the inherent right of self-defense, deepen cooperation with allies and friends, and work with all nations toward the responsible and peaceful use of space. To maintain the advantages afforded to the United States by space, we must also take several actions. We must continue to encourage cutting-edge space technology by investing in the people and industrial base that develops them. We will invest in the research and development of next-generation space technologies and capabilities that benefit our commercial, civil, scientific exploration, and national security communities, in order to maintain the viability of space for future generations. And we will promote a unified effort to strengthen our space industrial base and work with universities to encourage students to pursue space-related careers.”

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Source: The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News