Report: New Intelligence Offices Could Benefit US in ‘Techno-Economic Competition’

A new report suggests that the U.S. military’s “technological edge” could erode—the Defense Department no longer able to fulfill its commitments or to project power in the customary way—if the U.S. doesn’t become a better-informed player in the global “techno-economic competition.”

To that end, a one-year-old think tank with its origins in a federal commission proposes the creation of two new intelligence organizations to help “fuse more diverse sources of information across all domains” through artificial intelligence.

Founded by the former top executive at Google, Eric Schmidt, the Special Competitive Studies Project says it will help “strengthen America’s long-term competitiveness where artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies” are reshaping society, including in national security. 

The group’s Intelligence Panel published a 42-page “interim report” Oct. 20 proposing a National Techno-Economic Intelligence Center; along with another organization focusing on open-source intelligence that the report says could be a fit within the Defense Department.

The U.S. government’s 18-agency Intelligence Community led in AI as well as in “new efforts to capture data outside government channels,” according to the report. The IC now needs to expand on those activities to turn it all into a “competitive advantage.”

“In a rivalry with a technological and economic near-peer and with technology as a key battleground of the competition, providing insight into our adversaries’ emerging technologies and the organizations that field them is as important as understanding the traditional political and military institutions of a state,” according to the authors.

Citing the Biden administration’s new National Security Strategy, which says “economic security is national security,” the report says a new National Techno-Economic Intelligence Center could “improve the picture of adversaries’ economic, financial, and technological capabilities.” An organization specializing in open-source intelligence could help the IC “maximize its use of open sources throughout the intelligence enterprise.”

The report lays out options for where the new entities could reside organizationally:

A National Techno-Economic Intelligence Center could range from an independent agency; to a part of the Intelligence Community within the Commerce Department; to a part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI); to expanding the scope of the CIA’s Transnational Technology and Mission Center.

Options for “leveraging open source capabilities” similarly include an independent agency outside the IC; one within the IC; an office within the ODNI to coordinate contracting; and simply normalizing the use of open-source data across the IC with a set of standards.