Prevailing in this competition will require more than merely acquiring the fruits of this technological revolution; it will require a paradigm shift in the thinking of how this technology can be rapidly integrated into new capabilities and platforms to drive new operational and organizational concepts and strategies that change and optimize the way we compete.

Class Organization
The readings, lectures, and guest speakers explored how emerging commercial technologies pose challenges and create opportunities for the United States in strategic competition with great power rivals with an emphasis on the People’s Republic of China. We focused on the challenges created when U.S. government agencies, our federal research labs, and government contractors no longer have exclusive access to these advanced technologies.

By the end of the class all the teams realized that the problem they had selected had morphed into something bigger, deeper, and much more interesting.

Original Problem Statement: What combinations of technologies and international financial relationships should the US prioritize to mitigate climate change?

Final Problem Statement: How should the US manage China’s dominance in solar panels?

We knew that these students could write a great research paper. As we pointed out to them, while you can be the smartest person in the building, it’s unlikely that 1) all the facts are in the building, 2) you’re smarter than the collective intelligence sitting outside the building.

Jonah Cader: “Technology, Innovation and Great Power Competition (TIGPC) is that rare combination of the theoretical, tactical, and practical. Over 10 weeks, Blank, Felter, and Shah outline the complexities of modern geopolitical tensions and bring students up the learning curves of critical areas of technological competition, from semiconductors to artificial intelligence. Each week of the seminar is a crash course in a new domain, brought to life by rich discussion and an incredible slate of practitioners who live and breathe the content of TIGPC daily. Beyond the classroom, the course plunges students into getting “out of the building” to iterate quickly while translating learnings to the real world. Along the way the course acts as a strong call to public service.”

Original Problem Statement: How might we implement a ubiquitous secure global access to the internet in order to help circumvent censorship in authoritarian regimes?

 Final Problem Statement: How can we create an open, free Internet and maintain effective lines of communication in Taiwan in preparation for a potential invasion?

By week 2 of the class students formed teams around a specific technology challenge facing a US government agency and worked throughout the course to develop their own proposals to help the U.S. compete more effectively through new operational concepts, organizations, and/or strategies.

Jason KimThis course doesn’t just discuss U.S. national security issues. It teaches students how to apply an influential and proven methodology to rapidly develop solutions to our most challenging problems.”

Original Problem Statement: How can the U.S. Department of Defense match or beat the speed of great power competitors in acquiring and integrating critical technologies?

Final Problem Statement: How can the U.S. Department of Defense deploy alternative funding mechanisms in parallel to traditional procurement vehicles to enable and incentivize the delivery of critical next-generation technology in under 5 years?

We wanted to give our students hands-on experience on how to deeply understand a problem at the intersection of our country’s diplomacy, information, its military capabilities, economic strength, finance, intelligence, and law enforcement and dual-use technology. First by having them develop hypotheses about the problem; next by getting out of the classroom and talking to relevant stakeholders across government, industry, and academia to validate their assumptions; and finally by taking what they learned to propose and prototype solutions to these problems.

Final Problem Statement: Strategic wargames stand to benefit from a stronger integration of AI+ML but are struggling to find adoption and usage. How can this be addressed?

We want our students to build the reflexes and skills to deeply understand a problem by gathering first-hand information and validating that the problem they are solving is the real problem, not a symptom of something else. Then, students began rapidly building minimal viable solutions (policy, software, hardware …) as a way to test and validate their understanding of both the problem and what it would take to solve it.

Original Problem Statement: Disinformation is a national security threat.

Final Problem Statement: The U.S.’s ability to close the disinformation response kill chain is hampered by a lack of coordination between U.S. government  agencies,  no clear ownership of the disinformation problem, and a lack of  clear guidelines on public-private partnerships.

Original Problem Statement: China’s planned government investment in quantum dwarfs that of the U.S. by a factor of 10.

Final Problem Statement: The US quantum ecosystem does not generate enough awareness of opportunities to pursue careers in quantum that could catalyze industry growth.

Original Problem Statement: Supply and production of lithium-ion batteries is centered in China. How can the U.S. become competitive?

Final Problem Statement: China controls the processing of critical materials used for lithium-ion batteries. To regain control the DOE needs to incentivize short and long-term strategies to increase processing of critical materials and decrease dependence on lithium-ion batteries.

All of our students put in extraordinary amount of work. Our students came from a diverse set of background and interests – from undergraduate sophomores to 5th year PhD’s – in a mix including international policy, economics, computer science, business, law and engineering. Some will go on to senior roles in State, Defense, policy or other agencies. Others will join or found the companies building new disruptive technologies. They’ll be the ones to determine what the world-order will look like for the rest of the century and beyond. Will it be a rules-based order where states cooperate to pursue a shared vision for a free and open region and where the sovereignty of all countries large and small is protected under international law? Or will it be an autocratic and dystopian future coerced and imposed by a neo-totalitarian regime?

Lessons Learned