While the Department of Defense (DoD) has begun the process of compiling a list of acquisition programs, technologies manufacturing capabilities, and research areas critical for preserving U.S. military advantages, it still hasn’t determined how to communicate that list internally and to other agencies, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a new report, GAO details how DoD’s protecting of critical technologies is important for the United States to maintain military superiority.

“Critical technologies – such as elements of artificial intelligence and biotechnology – are those necessary to maintain U.S. technological superiority,” the report said. “As such, they are frequently the target of theft, espionage, and illegal export by adversaries.”

DoD has established a revised process for identifying and protecting critical technologies that offers “more specificity about what elements of an acquisition program or technology need to be protected and the protection measures DoD is expected to implement,” GAO said.

DoD first began implementing the revised process in February 2020, and has focused on identifying critical acquisition programs and technologies that need to be protected and how that should happen. However, GAO said the Pentagon has not yet determined:

  • How DoD will communicate the list internally and to other agencies;
  • Which metrics DoD will use to assess protection measures; and
  • Which organization will oversee future protection efforts.

GAO made three recommendations for DoD: 1) that the agency specify how it will communicate its critical programs and technologies list; 2) that it develop metrics to assess protection measures; and 3) that the agency select a DoD organization that will oversee protection efforts beyond 2020.” DoD concurred with the first recommendation, but only partially concurred with the second and third recommendations.

“DoD recognized the need to identify mechanisms that can assess the effectiveness of performance measures as well as the need for department-wide collaborative efforts to protect critical technologies,” GAO said. “DoD also stated that the Deputy Secretary of Defense is considering options for future technology protection roles and responsibilities, which may include metrics or other mechanisms to ensure effective implementation of protection requirements across the department.”

As DoD considers its pathway forward, GAO said it maintains “the importance of all recommendations” in the report.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.