On March 31st, US President Joe Biden revealed his infrastructure plan.
It includes $180 billion in new research and development spending on emerging technologies expected to define the coming decades and drive military innovation.
The American Jobs Plan totals $2 trillion in new spending over a decade through corporate tax increases. It mostly addresses concerns that a lack of federal investment in research and development risks the U.S. seceding the position of the world’s top technological innovator to China.
Leading the world in technology is “critical to both our future economic competitiveness and our national security,” Biden’s plan stated.
If the plan gets through the US Congress, it would invest billions into developing emerging technologies – including quantum computing, artificial intelligence and microelectronics — that underpin weapon systems and will help the Pentagon compete in increasingly digital battlefields.
“Investing $180 billion in R&D across the federal government and civilian agencies would be a significant down payment on the future of innovation at a time when federal R&D is its lowest in decades as a percentage of GDP,” Tony Samp, senior policy adviser on artificial intelligence and defense for law firm DLA Piper, told C4ISRNET. “And when game-changing technologies touch so many sectors of the economy, there are certainly ancillary benefits to this kind of civilian investment to national security and the Department of Defense.”
The plan calls for a $50 billion investment in the National Science Foundation, where the Biden administration wants to create a new technology directorate to “collaborate with and build on existing programs across the government.”
The proposal is half of the $100 billion plan introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., for a similar NSF technology directorate.
Biden also calls for a $40 billion investment in upgrading research labs across the country, “including brick-and-mortar facilities and computing capabilities and networks.”
The Biden plan seeks to address the semiconductor supply chain challenges faced by the U.S. government by spending $50 billion on manufacturing and research.
Semiconductor manufacturing largely takes place outside the U.S., raising security concerns about the core technology for everything from smartphones to 5G networks to fighter jets.
The Biden proposal matches a $50 billion investment in semiconductors from a bipartisan bill called the CHIPS Act passed in last year’s defense authorization bill.
The plan includes $35 billion for climate science and related “technology breakthroughs.” This of course will gain increasing importance in the coming months and years, since the Arctic is rapidly becoming a new hotzone for competition with Russia, and also China.
Additionally, it features $15 more billion for “demonstration projects” for numerous climate R&D priorities, including quantum computing, energy storage, and separation of rare earth elements, which are used in many defense systems.
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