Endless Frontier Act Defense Against Chinese Drone Tech

The Endless Frontier Act is a new proposal designed to support a stronger U.S. technology base: a move that could be a more concrete play in ongoing U.S.- China trade tensions.

Technology – The Final Frontier

By: Dawn M.K. Zoldi, Guest Contributor

 They say offense is the best defense. For the past couple of years, the main tactic in the U.S.-Chinese Tech War has been to hunker down and lob grenades in the form of various Executive Orders aimed at software and drones, add names to export control blacklists, and propose (but not pass) legislative bans on Chinese drones.

Now instead of playing “D” against China’s tech A-game, a bipartisan group in Congress wants to flip the script by actively investing in U.S. education, science and technology (S&T) and research and development (R&D). It’s called the Endless Frontier Act and the plan is to infuse $100 billion across the next 5 years.

Originally submitted almost a year ago in the 116th Congress as S. 3832, Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, and Indiana Republican Todd Young have teamed up again and plan to dust off the Act and make it the keystone of a new piece of legislation.

The Act, as originally submitted, would redesignate the National Science Foundation to the National Science and Technology Foundation, because words matter. It would establish two Deputy Directors, one for Science and one for Technology. The latter would be in charge of a newly created Directorate for Technology. This Directorate’s goals include:

  • strengthening the leadership of the U.S. in critical technologies through fundamental research in the key technology focus areas;
  • enhancing the competitiveness of the U.S. in the key technology focus areas by improving education in the key technology focus areas and attracting more students to such areas; and
  • fostering the economic and societal impact of federally funded research and development through an accelerated translation of fundamental advances in the key technology focus areas into processes and products that can help achieve national goals related to economic competitiveness, domestic manufacturing, national security, shared prosperity, energy and the environment, health, education and workforce development, and transportation

The Deputy Director of Technology would advance innovation through research and strategies on ten key focus areas including:

  • artificial intelligence and machine learning (AIML);
  • high performance computing, semiconductors, and advanced computer hardware;
  • quantum computing and information systems;
  • robotics, automation, and advanced manufacturing;
  • natural or anthropogenic disaster prevention;
  • advanced communications technology;
  • biotechnology, genomics, and synthetic biology;
  • cybersecurity, data storage, and data management technologies;
  • advanced energy; and
  • materials science, engineering, and relevant exploration relevant

Why does the drone industry care? For the future generation of the industry’s workforce, the bill will enable scholarships, fellowships and other student support in areas like AIML, robotics and automation, all relevant to the future of autonomous flight. For higher ed, individual researchers, not-for-profits and consoria, it will infuse big dollars into grants, cooperative agreements, contracts (SIBR and STTR), prizes, other transitions (*this is broad authority, folks), test beds and regional technology hubs. In short, it’s technology transfer and transition (T3) on steroids.

It remains to be seen whether or not this time around the Endless Frontier will sail through Congress on the fast-track, as proposed, or crash and burn as it did last year.  Either way, I think we can all agree, tech truly is the final frontier because it paves the way to all others. Race on!

Dawn M.K. Zoldi (Colonel, USAF, Retired) is a licensed attorney with 28 years of combined active duty military and federal civil service to the Department of the Air Force. She is an internationally recognized expert on unmanned aircraft system law and policy, the Law-Tech Connect™ columnist for Inside Unmanned Systems magazine, a recipient of the Woman to Watch in UAS (Leadership) Award 2019, and the CEO of P3 Tech Consulting LLC. For more information, visit her website at: https://www.p3techconsulting.com.



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