Global Competition Project (GCP)

Global Competition Project (GCP)

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About The Global Competition Project (GCP)

The Project was launched to explore what the United States must do to continue to thrive as a global leader, economically and otherwise, driving toward a societal-level understanding and approach to competition at the intersection of policy, industry, and science and technology.

To do so, the Project is commissioning a spectrum of experts from diverse fields across the Potomac Institute’s network and beyond. Their purpose is to highlight and elevate issues surrounding both the challenges and opportunities associated with societal-level competition today and in the future. What are the greatest vulnerabilities to consider? What is at stake for the United States? How do we best leverage our strengths?

Ultimately, the Project’s goal is to develop foundational reference products (through research, discussion, events, and papers, etc.) for national security professionals, policymakers, industry leaders, and others to use in addressing the most consequential aspects of near-peer competition.

A New Genre of Competition: Society-level engagement in the Information Age

For the United States to continue to thrive as a global leader, economically and otherwise, a societal-level understanding and approach to competition must be invigorated. The issue is a multifaceted, multigenerational challenge just in its infancy of being recognized and addressed and will therefore require priority in the public square and private sector if we are to be successful in years to come.

The current era—the Information Age—is dominated by unprecedented global interconnectedness and economic interdependence, at an all-time high across human history. A single person can wield a megaphone to millions (or billions) via a single social media post. A small ripple in one nation’s markets can result in a tsunami in others and vice versa. Thoughtful and deliberative strategies employed by competitors can therefore be exceedingly effective at swaying minds and money with unprecedented reach, precision, and impact. Unfortunately, examples of such efforts have also devolved into political and economic manipulation and coercion, to include China and Russia as culprits.

While the United States has competed effectively at a societal level before, the stakes and players were different. We did not depend on the Soviet Union economically or otherwise during the Cold War, nor did we depend on Germany or Japan in a similar manner during World War II. Today however, we are economic codependents with China. And China, is deliberately competing with the United States at the societal level, in it for the long-haul, leveraging an enduring patience built over several millennia. While the United States does not “enjoy” the “benefit” and ruthless efficiency of an autocracy in aligning all aspects of society toward strategic goals, American-style democracy and free enterprise have proven themselves repeatedly to be the essential spark for unbridled ingenuity—the key to unrivaled flourishing among the world’s nations.

Our short history has demonstrated that—ingenuity—inventiveness, imagination, and the free flow of ideas, especially when translated to the advance of impactful science and technology (S&T) on the economy, national security, and overall quality of life, is core to our unprecedented success as a country. This time is no different, especially when S&T is complimented by sound policy and an engaged private sector. The intersection of all three, illuminated via the compilation of insight gathered from a diverse field of experts, will provide a vital tool to understanding and developing a coherent society-level approach to competition in the Information Age.

 

AUKUS, Pillar 2 Roundtable: Challenges and Opportunities for Implementation

On May 9, 2024, the Potomac Institute's Global Competition Project and 401 Tech Bridge hosted a roundtable focused on the challenges and opportunities associated with the implementation of AUKUS, Pillar 2. The Australia – United Kingdom – United States (AUKUS) security partnership, announced on September 15, 2021, was a watershed moment for competition with China in the Indo-Pacific region. Pillar 1 of the agreement, which hinges on the US and UK sharing nuclear propulsion technology and the delivery of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, has received the lion’s share of attention. However, Pillar 2 arguably has far greater potential for economic and security impact and cooperation among the AUKUS partners given its focus on the joint development of advanced technological capabilities. Progress has been modest, but momentum is gaining, and fruitful implementation of Pillar 2 will depend on robust engagement across the policy, industry, and academic communities. The intent of the GCP session was to lay a foundation for action on science and technology, research and development, and policy related to the goals of Pillar 2.   

Here are some of the main takeaways from that discussion: 

Defining Success 

The panel identified three aspects of success for Pillar 2:  

getting capabilities into warfighter hands;  
creating an environment that enables the delivery of those capabilities; and  
de facto, organic capability development and cooperation across all three defense industrial bases.  
The group recognized that defining success is not enough, it needs to be measured to hold ourselves accountable.   

Challenge #1: Culture 

Current business norms—via defense security cooperation and foreign military sales, for example—are too cumbersome to meet the threat and do not match the spirit nor the intent of AUKUS. The buying, selling, and co-development of capabilities at all stages between AUKUS partner nations should move toward treatment as one seamless domestic marketplace. Governmental policies and business practices should be adopted to incentivize such a shift. Overall success will require continuously engaged leadership and focus at the highest levels of government and industry.  

Challenge #2: Information Sharing  

Self-imposed barriers and other information classifications are stifling the goals of AUKUS cooperation. Particularly, in the US, Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) and "NOFORN" designations are uniquely troublesome to sharing information between the US and UK or AUS, while the UK and AUS have more streamlined information sharing practices. A deliberate reexamination of what information must truly be withheld and shared between partners is necessary. Boundaries must be lifted for industry and government to have meaningful and timely conversations at the unclassified level or with greater ease at classified levels.  

Challenge #3: Financial Incentives  

Financial disincentives hinder motives for cooperation across the industrial bases of the AUKUS partner nations. Businesses remain conservative due to the increased costs associated with cross-border business opportunities. Room must be made for smaller contractors to compete and contribute, as well as for intellectual property to be shared equitably to garner innovative solutions all can benefit from. Antiquated government policies and practices need updating to counter financial disincentives and reduce logistical and time hurdles for commercial contracting.

 

Global Competition Project April 25, 2022

Dr. Tim Welter led a panel consisting of Mr. Frank Fannon (Former Assistant Secretary of State, Energy Resources, Managing Director at Fannon Global Advisors, Senior Advisor [Non- Resident] at CSIS, Senior Fellow[Non-Resident] at Atlantic Council), Mr. Ron Nussle Jr. (Former Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State,President/COO of New Hope Energy), and Ms. Gentry Lane (CEO and Founder of ANOVA Intelligence,Technical Team Member at the NATO S&T Organization, Senior Fellow [Non-Resident] at Potomac Institute). As part of its Global Competition Project, the Potomac Institute is commissioning a spectrum of experts to help address the most vexing challenges associated with near-peer competition; developing foundational references to help guide government and industry leaders, and DoD officials, to best serve the nation’s future. This panel focused on the U.S. energy sector, related technologies, resources, infrastructure, and policy, as they pertain to America’s competitive advantage on the world stage.

March 30, 2022

Dr. Tim Welter co-chaired the event’s panel with Dr. Samantha Weeks (Mission Director, Science & Research for Space X’s Polaris Dawn and Vice President, Corporate Transformation at Shift4 Payment, Retired Air Force Col.). The panel consisted of Dr. Jerry Krassner (Potomac Institute Board of Regents member, co-founder and former National Chairman of MASINT [now ATIA], served as Chief Scientist in several offices at OSD and DIA), and Mr. Thomas Messegee (Spacecraft Design Consultant and Engineer). The conversation focused on the importance of the space domain to global competition and how the U.S. government can compete in that domain amidst increased advancements in space capabilities from geopolitical rivals (Russia, China) and the commercial sector. Dr. Tim Welter, and Dr. Jen Buss delivered introductory remarks.

February 24th, 2022

Dr. Tim Welter led a panel consisting of the Honorable Zach J. Lemnios (Former Vice President of IBM Research, Potomac Institute Board of Regents Member), Dr. Will Roper (Former Assistant Secretary of Air Force Acquisition, Technology & Logistics), and Ms. Lois Nicholson (Counsellor Defense Acquisition and Technology at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.). The subject of the conversation was focused on economics and the spectrum of conflict, examining whether the US, and more narrowly, the Department of Defense, is adequately considering the implications of today’s global economic interconnectedness when preparing for war. Dr. Tim Welter, General (ret.) Al Gray, and Dr. Jen Buss delivered introductory remarks.

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Summary

News of the Peoples Republic of China’s (PRC) first successful test of a hypersonic missile perforated the headlines in August. The test sent a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile into low-earth orbit around the globe to its target, demonstrating potential to circumvent U.S. missile defense systems and possibly strike North American targets. Media commentary suggested it was a “Sputnik moment” for the PRC, a reference to 1957 when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first successful satellite to orbit the earth, signaling that the U.S.’s geopolitical rival achieved a level of technological prowess that effectively challenged its position as a global superpower. Whether the comparison is hyperbole or fact is arguable. However, it is a clear indication matched with other geopolitical and economic signs that the U.S. has a contemporary competitor in the PRC, challenging its position on the world stage, and not just from a security standpoint. As the U.S. gains an appreciation for the emerging competitive environment, the first of many serious questions must be asked: What does it actually mean to compete? What defines competition in this context?