Federal spending on research and development has more than doubled in the last 20 years but resources for development have come at the expense of basic and applied research, which spells trouble for future capabilities that the national security establishment will need, warns a new report by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA).
Moreover, the decline in funding for research will also impact the nation’s talent pool as “the lack of investment in basic research will affect the number of graduate students focusing in areas relevant to national security,” reducing the number of scientists and engineers available to the intelligence community, Defense Department and industry, says the report, Emerging Science and Technologies: Security the Nation through Discovery and Innovation.
The report says even self-funding of basic research within industry and academia is “endangered,” and that combined with increased funding for contracted R&D and fewer federal dollars available for basic research, “are likely constraining the defense and aerospace sectors in the applied areas of the R&D spectrum.”
Globally, governments recognize the importance of R&D to economic growth and national security, the report says. This is the case in Asia, and in particular China, which now accounts for the world’s second largest R&D investments, it says.
The report identifies a range of research areas that would advance the intelligence community’s priority technology requirements, which were identified by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2008. The technology needs are technical collection, communications and sharing intelligence, human intelligence (HUMINT) collection and operations, intelligence analysis, and protection of the intelligence enterprise.
Within the technical collection technology need, the fundamental research areas that would provide advancements here include sensors, energy harvesting, imitating nature’s designs and processes—referred to as bio-mimicry—and the Internet of Nature, which would involve the uses of plants and animals as a sensing network.
Fundamental research areas within the communications and sharing intelligence technology need include swarm technologies and communications, holographic telepresence, advanced materials for computing, and bio-inspired computing.
HUMINT collections and operations research needs include big data knowledge discovery for asset identification, countering asymmetric intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for HUMINT signature reduction, behavioral biometrics, and bacterial steganography, which refers to the “release of information using living organisms as carriers of data.”
Intelligence analysis needs include more focus on the “entire information inference chain from data to knowledge” to aid the human analyst, the report says. Other fundamental research needs here include human-inspired big data access strategies, and activity-based intelligence and predictive analytics.
Research areas within the protection of the intelligence enterprise technology need include quantum computing and associated technologies, self-protecting data, and data authentication.