Bobby Inman Interview (Competitiveness): Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

National Security and International Competitiveness: Conversation with
 Admiral Bobby R. Inman, U.S.N. (Retired), President of Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and former Director of the National Security Agency; 3/25/86 by Harry Kreisler

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Regaining Competitiveness

We've talked about the new problem in confronting competitiveness, or making ourselves more competitive in the international economy. We've talked about changes in places like the Pentagon that we might have to undertake. Obviously, we're going to require innovative institutions, like MCC, in the private sector. What is MCT [Microelectronics and Computer Technology] and what are you trying to do there?

MCT is a joint research venture, owned initially by ten, now by twenty-one, competing U.S. corporations pooling resources to accelerate the creation of new technology, with the clear understanding that each of those owners will use technologies that come out in their own products, in their own systems, in competition with one another. It keeps competition at the marketplace but focuses talent and dollars on creating new technology at a faster point, making it available earlier.

Once the institution was created and Congress had a chance to examine it closely, they then enacted legislation, the National Cooperative Research Act of 1984, which now, for the first time, makes these joint research ventures as a matter of law pro-competitive and requires an international market test in considering any anti-competitive features. I think we're going to see a lot of them created. It's a good supplement, particularly for the midsize and smaller companies, in getting a look at long-range research and in trying to accelerate the time frame with which new technologies will be available for that innovative sector of the marketplace. The large companies will stay outside because they have the resources to do it on their own.

The heart of success in all of these problems comes from the size of the pool of talent. The Federal Government isn't going to be the primary investor, in the years ahead, in education. It's going to come from the state and local governments. The states and the localities that invest in education at all levels are going to be the states that are in the best position to capitalize, not only on creating new technologies and moving them to the marketplace faster, but ultimately in success at that international marketplace. Investment in education is the single most critical ingredient to be done by the states and localities in helping us grapple with this changing world to the reality of an international marketplace.

What sort of changes in the education system? Should we be training our students for different kinds of things?

We need to look at using these emerging technologies to better come to grips with the needs of individual youngsters. We gear systems to move everybody along at the same pace, rather than recognizing that some have the capacity to learn faster and others slower. Technologies will let us deal with both the remedial needs on the one side and accelerating the learning process on the other. But it costs money to bring those new technologies to bear. Indeed, there ought to be more effort at using technologies to improve the whole delivery process of education, ranging all the way from kindergarten to continuing education after graduate school.

One final question. What is the one thing, if there is one thing, that you would like to see changed in our institutions, in our national security apparatus, that would further this transition?

There are two. First, to clearly define our national security interest as including diplomacy, foreign aid, arms control, size of our defense forces, deployment of our defense forces, and international trade. And to try to shape long-term policies to bring about bipartisan support for those long-term policies, and to be able to sustain constancy in how we deal with that outside world. To recognize that we do have to use leverage to get markets open to us, but that trying to retreat to a protected domestic market is not the way for success.

Second, change totally the defense procurement process. Go for a six-year ceiling. Look for efficiency and timeliness, not for perfection. And get the great flow-through that we used to have and could have again for commercialization, for developing our own economy at home, and for giving us a much better shot at the international marketplace.

Admiral Inman, thank you very much for taking time from your busy schedule to discuss these very important issues with us. And thank YOU very much for joining us for this conversation on national security and international competitiveness.

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