Critical Read

Report: State Department needs to rethink use of tech

Shutterstock image (by Arthimedes): 3d polygonal illustration of earth, western hemisphere.

What: The National Research Council’s report, “Diplomacy for the 21st Century: Embedding a Culture of Science and Technology throughout the Department of State.”

Why: In the coming years, developments affecting science and technology (S&T) will be plentiful. By the end of this year, mobile users will exceed 5 billion, with 2.4 billion of those using smartphones. By 2030, food demand will have increased over 2014’s level by 35 percent and energy demand will be up 50 percent. Research and industrial communities will need assistance in determining what technologies to investigate in difficult operating environments around the world. The report suggests that the State Department should respond by boosting its understanding of technology and focus on programs related to S&T.

The report includes 27 recommendations. A whole-of-society approach is suggested, utilizing NGOs with deeply vested interests to help identify growing trends. A Science and Technology Advisory Board is proposed to provide advice on non-defense S&T issues related to the department’s foreign policy agenda.  Additionally, the S&T Adviser to the secretary should be assigned the organizational status of assistant secretary to further the integration of S&T goals across the department’s bureaus, the report recommends. An effort should also be undertaken to better understand the reception of the department’s social media efforts, which should continue to be expanded.

Verbatim: “The related foreign policy considerations of S&T advances are driving diplomatic agendas throughout the world on a daily basis. The department needs to upgrade its S&T capabilities and related policies and programs accordingly. The recommendations set forth in this report, if supported by policy and budgetary commitments, should open new opportunities for the department to draw upon the expertise and ingenuity of the nation’s S&T assets embedded in many institutions within and outside the government.”

Read the full report here.

About the Author

Eli Gorski is an FCW editorial fellow. Connect with him on Twitter: @EliasGorski

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