WASHINGTON — China’s rapid technological growth poses a threat to the U.S. defense industrial base, according to a new report from data analytics firm Govini.
The report, released Monday, details the U.S. federal government’s nearly $200 billion in fiscal 2022 spending on critical technologies — but warns China is still outpacing the United States.
In FY22, biotechnology topped the list of the 12 identified critical technologies the U.S. invested in, at $81.3 billion.
This difference in the pace of technological advancement between the U.S. and China is largely due to accessibility to patents, according to Govini. Over the last five years, the report finds, the number of patents associated with critical technology areas and issued to U.S.-based companies has stagnated, while the number for Chinese companies has steadily increased.
Indeed, Govini finds that in every critical technology subsegment, China has surpassed the U.S. in granted patents as of 2022. Furthermore, since 2018, China’s total number of patents has been steadily increasing and is now at its highest rate. Meanwhile, the U.S.’s patent rate in every critical technology subsegment, except nuclear modernization, has been decreasing in recent years.
“Patents are a leading indicator of technological dominance in the future. [Patents] are the seed for making new discoveries that put you on the top of the competitive food chain,” Bob Work, the former deputy defense secretary who now is a chairman of Govini, said during a call with reporters Monday. “That’s what scares me the most [because] China’s doing far better than us in terms of the overall number of patents.”
Additionally, Govini’s new report finds some U.S. contractors focused on critical technologies are still relying heavily on Chinese suppliers and investors. Tara Murphy Dougherty, Govini’s chief executive, noted Monday all 12 critical technologies in the report are highly dependent on Chinese supplies.
“We have a tremendous reliance as a country for all federal programs and activities that span these 12 technology areas on our greatest geopolitical competitor: China,” she said.
Lawmakers are increasingly raising concerns about the dominance of China when it comes to key technology areas. At the Intelligence and National Security Summit last week, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said national security no longer means “the nation with the most tanks, guns, ships, and planes.”
“With China, this is a technology competition,” he said while speaking on a panel. “If we don’t invest further, from semiconductors, to overhead capabilities, to [artificial intelligence], quantum analytics, to biology, advanced energy, those are domains where if China dominates, that will pose as much of a national security threat, both in terms of their ability to spread their influence, or frankly, to take to take us offline, as anywhere else.”
Georgina DiNardo is an editorial fellow for Military Times and Defense News and a recent graduate of American University, specializing in journalism, psychology, and photography in Washington, D.C.