Keith Krach 06.10.2021

The Next Apollo Program: The Endless Frontiers Act as part of the US Innovation and Competition Act

It’s one small step for Congress, one huge leap for American competitiveness. By passing the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) with strong bipartisan support, the Senate went a long way in countering what Secretary of State Blinken called “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century”—China’s growing military, geopolitical, and economic aggression under the leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping.

Xi’s biggest fear is that the United States has a Sputnik moment and commits to the equivalent of a moonshot. USICA is designed to do exactly that by taking the technological advantage away from China Inc. and returning it to the United States.

The bill has quite a few valuable provisions. The main one is USICA’s Endless Frontier Act component which authorizes about $150 billion over five years for scientific and technological research in 10 tech-intensive industries that America simply cannot cede to China Inc., including semiconductors, 5G, AI, clean energy, cybersecurity, quantum, robotics, biotechnology, and others. An additional $50 billion will fund new regional tech hubs across the U.S.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Xi Jinping amped up China Inc.’s economic warcraft to build his military machine. His strategy is designed to erode our industrial base and gain technological superiority.

I’m not afraid to speak out. This small-town Ohio boy is proud to be Number 3 on Dictator Xi’s sanctions list, having received this distinction not for what I said as Under Secretary of State, but for serving my country and getting results. One prominent example is building the Clean Network Alliance of Democracies, which defeated Xi’s master plan to control 5G. The Wall Street Journal called the Clean Network “an undisputed success” and perhaps the “most enduring foreign-policy legacy” of the last four years.

The Clean Network was a product of my mission to lead U.S. economic diplomacy by developing and operationalizing a Global Economic Security Strategy (GESS)—which later became another bipartisan bill, The Global Economic Security Strategy Act of 2019—aimed at driving economic growth, maximize national security, and combat economic aggression. It consisted of three pillars: 1) turbocharge economic competitiveness and innovation; 2) safeguard American’s assets, such as intellectual property, supply chains, financial and education systems; and 3) form a network of trusted partnerships comprised of like-minded countries, companies, and civil society that operates by a set of democratic trust principles for all areas of economic collaboration, which turned into the Clean Network.

The Endless Frontier Act was conceived in October 2019 as a byproduct of the first pillar of our Global Economic Security Strategy to turbocharge economic competitiveness and innovation. Our team at the State Department worked with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, and Senator Todd Young, to reboot America’s scientific and technological leadership at a time when we face a real and urgent threat from the Chinese Communist Party. The bipartisan legislation which was introduced a few months later was designed to spawn tomorrow’s trusted technology by boosting investment in high-tech research vital to our national security.

The CHIPS Act portion of the bill, derived from my team’s historic $12-billion onshoring of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), appropriates nearly $53 billion to jumpstart American semiconductor manufacturing.

From my experience of creating categories by building four market-leading companies, I can tell you securing these advanced industries is not cheap. However, when the government targets smart investment in research and development with partners from the private sector, we get a tremendous bang for our buck. Just look at the Apollo program.

Most significantly, USICA is a catalyst for such private-sector, and even allied, R&D investments. The strategic plan presented by Paul Touw, my senior advisor and fellow founder of Ariba, and me to Senators and Congressmen demonstrated how to grow this critical high-tech research investment to $500 billion with matches from the private sector and our closest technological allies. We later validated this and garnered significant interest from companies and countries that became members of the Clean Network.

The beauty of this approach is that it not only compounds the government’s R&D funding but also maximizes the commercialization of those investments by leveraging private-sector resources and know-how. It also builds collaboration and increases economic competitiveness with our Techno-Democracies-10 (TD-10) partners to counter China Inc. The TD-10 was designed as a powerful coalition of 10 to 12 like-minded countries assembled to compete with China Inc. by focusing on the development, protection, dissemination, and use of emerging technologies.

I have a feeling this is the beginning of the next Apollo program.