Florida’s Leadership in Technology Is Critical to U.S. National Security

Florida’s Leadership in Technology Is Critical to U.S. National Security

March 27, 2024

By James Taylor

Technology has always advantaged some societies over others. The Manhattan Project is one example that is under popular debate again, following the blockbuster Oppenheimer. Many technological advances are much more subtle than the development of the atomic bomb, but they may turn out to be just as impactful. Florida policymakers understand this challenge and have been taking important steps to ensure our state, and our country, continue to lead the world when it comes to innovation and technological advancements. 

In the era of quantum computing, AI, advanced robotics, nanotechnology, IOT, and more - the world seems on the cusp of making gigantic leaps forward. Many refer to this era as the “Fifth Industrial Revolution.” As with other periods of great advancement, some societies capture more benefits than others. 

China squarely recognizes this reality. It has put the full force of its government behind gaining technological competitive advantages, manufacturing new technologies, and deploying them throughout the world. 

Communications infrastructure is just one example. The government-backed telecommunications giant Huawei has sought to deploy Chinese 5G technology across the globe. Legitimate concerns exist over whether or not the Chinese government will use that infrastructure for nefarious purposes. At the same time, Russia is threatening nuclear conflict in space to destroy the Starlink network (one of Elon Musk’s ventures) upon which the Ukraine Army is relying to communicate. China has made similar threats. 

Other infrastructure, beyond communications, faces hacking and cyber-attacks. The U.S. FBI Director outlined at a security conference this month that Chinese hackers have covertly pre-positioned offensive, dormant malware inside critical U.S. infrastructure assets, as well as other strategic targets around the globe. He stated that China is “Poised to attack whenever Beijing decides the time is right.” And, the Netherlands announced earlier this month that Chinese hackers had gained access to a Dutch military network. 

The Manhattan Project moment (or moments) of this era could be a breakthrough in traditional munitions (both China and Russia currently have hypersonic missile systems, and the U.S. does not, so there is no slowdown in that space), but more likely they will occur in some other area. It’s nearly impossible to predict. What is certain is that the countries that lead the way when it comes to technological advancements will be in the best position to capitalize on them, not only militarily but also economically. 

This reality demands that the state of Florida, and our country at large, foster a competitive and dynamic environment that allows U.S. companies to lead this technological innovation. 

Policymakers seem to understand the challenge. To name a few recent positive developments: The University of Florida has recently created a new Semiconductor Institute on its campus. Governor DeSantis and the Florida Congressional delegation have appropriated tens of millions of dollars to support NeoCity in Central Florida, a technology hub that will manufacture computer chips and train the workforce of the future. The Governor and Florida legislature have taken steps to ensure that Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-affiliated entities cannot locate near critical infrastructure in the state. Senator Rubio and Congressman Gimenez have been at the forefront of challenging the deployment of tech from hostile actors, from Huawei’s 5G equipment to Chinese cranes in PortMiami. 

This leadership is critical. Today, American brands are synonymous with leading the Fifth Industrial Revolution - Apple, Google, Meta. The list goes on and on. We, as Americans, are the beneficiaries of decades of investment and innovation. And, in America, we get to have a debate over the place and value of these companies and their technologies in our society. In China and in Russia, there is no debate. Technology companies there, in many respects, act as extensions of the state.  

Our national interests, values, and prosperity are intertwined with the global tech race. Florida policymakers, at all levels of government, recognize this reality and must maintain it as a top priority. Failing to do so risks relegating our society to the sidelines in the forthcoming era, effectively handing over the development, control, and deployment of technologies to entities hostile to American interests and values.

James Taylor is Chief Executive Officer of the Florida Technology Council,

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