10. Conclusions

As shown by the analysis presented in this report, the United States is well positioned in those technologies which are deemed to be critical to the nation's economic prosperity or national security. Although we do not lead in every specific technology, our technological capabilities are either better than or on par with the best in the world in all 27 critical technology areas, as shown in Figure 10.1. That is an accomplishment of which the nation can be proud.

Nevertheless, given the rapid nature of technological progress and the increasing intensity of global competition, we must continue to improve both our development efforts and our efforts to diffuse advanced technology widely into the economy and into systems and components used by the military to protect the nation's security. The trends in Figure 10.1 indicate that the size of the U.S. lead has either declined or remained constant, which argues for continued U.S. investment in technology development if the U.S. position is to be preserved. In times of constrained resources we must do these things more efficiently, as well.

The cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) is an important instrument for assuring the nation's continuing technological leadership. The NSTC's principal purposes are: to establish clear national goals for federal S&T investments, to ensure that policies and programs are developed and implemented to support those goals; and harness S&T to improve quality of life and long-term economic strength of the United States. The NSTC provides a formal mechanism by which the vast Federal R&D enterprise can be coordinated, priorities can be explicitly set, and unnecessary duplication of effort can be eliminated.

In addition to increased coordination of the Federal R&D enterprise, the Administration has placed an emphasis on coordinating federal R&D programs with the private sector and on forming collaborative programs and partnerships. The private sector is given an opportunity to provide its input in a variety of ways, ranging from the advice given by the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), to workshops and white papers to help identify technology areas for investment by the Advanced Technology Program, to joint funding and direction of programs like the Partnership for the New Generation Vehicle. This collaborative relationship will help assure the long-term health of the U.S. technology base and the nation's ability to take full advantage of the products, processes and information it creates.

While the National Critical Technologies are not the only technologies important to the long-term economic health or national security of the United States, they are those which have the greatest impact. The process of identifying these technologies has been one part of the continuing effort to use technology to assure a brighter future for the nation.