The U.S. has the hardware. But what about the software? Legacy? Developed before the mobile app era? And what about the brains to make robots do the things that would be required of first responders, do the dirty work of containment and cleanup, while not tire or sacrifice human lives in the process?
It wasn't Al Gore who pioneered the Internet. It was DARPA, the military's advanced projects agency. America has a huge trade deficit, but one of the sectors where we're still a world leader is aircraft -- much of whose technological lead was financed by Pentagon purchases. Within the executive branch, one of the recognized leaders on the issue of climate change and sea level rise is, not surprisingly, the Navy. Even during the Bush Administration with its preponderance of deniers in high places, the Navy insisted that climate change was both real and man-made, and devoted resources to it. Why does the Navy care? As I heard one of their climate change leaders quip, "For one thing, our bases tend to be at sea level." In the case of energy policy, what's holding back innovation and domestic production is the absence of assured markets for startups. But in this anti-government, laissez-faire nation, the military gets a safe conduct pass to do something that no other branch of government is ideologically allowed to do -- commit the sin of economic planning.