A new report by the House Intelligence Committee recommends a substantial increase in federal spending on basic research and development (R&D) and calls for the intelligence community (IC) to change how it is organized and sets priorities for R&D.
The report says that “the current structure of the federal budget as it relates to innovation in the IC and national security is generally rigid in ways that make difficult the agile and flexible pursuit of ideas of uncertain success.”
Federal spending on basic research has grown overall but has dropped as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product from a high of 1.9 percent in 1964 to 0.7 percent in 2016, says the report, which recommends a spending commitment of 1.1 percent of GDP.
Federal spending on basic research will ensure that government interests are being tended to given that private sector investment is geared toward commercial applications, says the report, Rightly Scaled, Carefully Open, Infinitely Agile: Reconfiguring to Win the Innovation Race in the Intelligence Community, which was prepared by the Intelligence panel’s Subcommittee on Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research.
The introduction to the report says the entire committee and staff was involved in preparing it but a brief section on the last page submitted by committee Republicans says its members and staff were not part of the scoping for the assessment or in putting together the information collection activities. The Republicans also say the ranking member on the Strategic Technologies panel wasn’t aware of the report until it was given to him.
“While the report effectively collates areas of improvement for Intelligence Community innovation, the Minority believes it would have benefited from a discussion on intellectual theft conducted by China, and other adversary nations and how the IC could address these threats,” the Republicans say.
Other recommendations in the report include finding ways to improve hiring within the IC to get access to more top talent, in part through better pay, expedited hiring authorities, talent exchanges with the private sector, immigration reforms to expand access to talent, and retention incentives such as student loan repayments.
Innovative environments feature “an open, collaborative culture” that includes risk taking and breaking the mold but “These are not qualities that are readily embraced by the federal national security apparatus,” the report says. The panel suggests investing in private sector partnerships to keep abreast of innovations in the private sector and to build trust with the government.
The report also calls for better alignment of senior IC officials’ vision with actual R&D priorities within the IC.
The panel says “there is a gap in the alignment of strategic thought leadership and prioritization of R&D activities in the overall IC.”