THE BLOG
05/20/2010 08:22 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Empire State of Security

Of the many security challenges facing the United States - a nuclear Iran, a resurgent Taliban, a more sophisticated ring of international cyber terrorists - what I find equally alarming is what I recently discovered in India's Southern state of Kerala. Attending a friend's wedding there last year, in a village well outside the main city, I stumbled upon something that literally made me stop in my tracks: a biotech start-up.

What's so disturbing about a bustling tech company in the middle of rural India? Well, to be sure, there is nothing threatening about the people working there, or the technology they are developing. The danger is that the US today risks losing the high tech race to India, China, Brazil, and other emerging economies.

This is a pressing issue of national security, one that New York City can help address.

When most politicians and academics talk about national security, they mean traditional threats to the homeland. But our competitiveness is a critical factor in maintaining America's position as a global superpower. From mounting debt, to a deteriorating manufacturing base, to a growing trade imbalance, to the possibility of losing our AAA credit rating, our economic competitiveness and our national security are increasingly not distinct issues, but two sides of the same coin.

Militarily, America continues to project strength on the battlefields of Afghanistan and other global hotspots. Economically, however, we increasingly project weakness. A strong America requires both military and economic might. The future of our national security is inextricably linked with our efforts to get our budgets back in the black, revitalize our economy, manage our borders, and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Of course, I don't mean to discount or downplay our efforts to secure the nation's borders and our citizens. We need more networked cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies to thwart terrorist plots. We need more spending on high tech port security to prevent smuggled nuclear material from landing on our shores in containers. That means reinstating the 28 percent drop in Transit Security Grant funding for New York this year. We also need to use the current troop surge in Afghanistan to build that country's capacity to govern itself, while encouraging face-to-face negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to advance a two-state solution before the region erupts into conflict again. And, most of all, we must remain tough on Iran's nuclear program while vigorously containing the clerical regime if it crosses any more lines.

These are existentially important national security issues. They are also obvious. What we really need is to rethink what national security means, and how to achieve it. And who better than New Yorkers - residents of the world's most cosmopolitan city and one of its largest economies - to lead this effort.

Increasingly, security means innovation. And New York's business, civic, and community leaders can help shape and advocate a national innovation strategy that will keep America strong and competitive this century. We can lead the nation by example in three ways.

First, New York should lead the nation's tech renaissance. Governments around the world are rapidly increasing R&D investment and attempting to shift the center of IT innovation to Tel Aviv, Bangalore, Singapore, or Chengdu. However, New York remains the diverse center of media, finance, entrepreneurship, and research, and is uniquely positioned to ensure America's dominance in high tech for years to come. I plan to work with President Obama to double the National Science Foundation's funding, make the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent, and restore our national R&D investment to its previous level of 3 percent of GDP.

Second, as the city with the highest concentration of hospitals in the world, and the largest concentration of research facilities in the nation, New York can spearhead a new national biotech strategy. With eager investors and a rich talent pool, we're the ideal place to ramp-up a new National Innovation Fund that leverages private investment against national priorities, notably biotechnology research.

Finally, New York can be the epicenter of green tech research and policy development, building on Mayor Bloomberg's leadership in sustainability and energy efficiency. In 2009, for the first time, China topped the G-20 in clean energy investing, more then doubling what the US committed to this sector. But New York - home to the world's top investing, entrepreneurial, and research communities, in one of the world's greenest cities - is perfectly situated to lead the global clean energy economy. I will work tirelessly in Congress to pass the President's proposal for 25 percent of our national energy portfolio to come from renewable, homegrown sources by 2025.

It's important to remember that today the US is competing with China, India, Brazil, and other emerging markets for foreign direct investment. The clean tech company outside of Chennai, the new battery technology firm outside Shanghai, and the medical research lab outside of Rio will not wait for American dollars, workers, or interest. The only way to ensure that we remain on top economically - and militarily - is to craft a comprehensive national security strategy (read: national innovation strategy) that will secure a prosperous and safe future for all Americans.

New York can lead the way.