Advancing Multilateral Public-Private Partnerships for Biden’s Priorities

One lesson I had learned witnessing the Trump transition at State was that while policies and programs may not outlast an administration, the work can continue with advancing priorities under shared values, iterating upon what works, and working with the private sector.

In the private sector, I witness an incredible array of work by innovators in climate science, aerospace, and defense protecting human lives and achieving security and sustainability agendas through greener, cheaper, lighter, and more efficient technologies.

I had an opportunity to work on a program called Engage America – a whole of government initiative to bring policies closer to the American people. With State as a more diplomatic arm of the federal government, we worked with interesting private innovators to provide public resources to local municipalities, such as Small Business Administration to provide translation services for Somali populations in Buffalo, NYC.

Many public programs, such as Engage America, did not continue, but public and private resources exist to be harnessed with a renewed sense of optimism and energy to be catalyzed. We are also at the precipice of many changes to move at scale on complicated and interrelated issues.

Executive Offices at institutional banks, like Goldman Sachs, adopted Environmental and Social Policy under a top-level operational framework. Investors are pouring an unprecedented amount of capital into start-up ventures with government stakeholders as a source of funding, building confidence among investors.

In many ways, coronavirus is accelerating what has already been out there in building the cyber resilient networks and thinking through supply chain disruptions. As a country, we should come together to think about how public-private partnerships can instrument the solutions that can be scaled.

Each entity offers from a business or government standpoint to meet the needs of consumers, citizens, and the environment in a collaborative working sense. By creating the conditions for tackling those problems within and in partnership with implementation strategies that are feasible, practical, and operational.

Government officials need to work with business or non-profit not only as a way to reduce cost but also for innovative and long-term solutions to manage multi-dimensional policies. Business leaders will need to balance responding to short-term solutions and long-term strategic policies part of the larger political reality by anticipating risk, clear social goals with flexibility and independent expert advice.

  1. Create industry coalitions for immediate solutions, such as pandemics. There are technologies we can utilize today such as sensors or commercial satellites monitoring the patterns of life. We can mobilize this data to predict the patterns of future biological threats.
  2. Establish R&D coalitions in each arm of the federal government. We can apply the technical knowledge of U.S. startups to policy goals to cover Presidential priorities, such as nuclear disarmament, food security, global health, and climate change. By working closely with the Department of Energy, entrepreneurs would help bring clean energy technologies with high upfront capital costs into the market. By catalyzing the connection with DOE, entrepreneurs, regional partners, and incubators, the partnership would foster collaborations among start-ups and federal entities. 
  3. Educate. The advent of the internet and the data is that everyone can share information. The downside to this is that everyone can share information. Massive amounts of disinformation or misinformation about the coronavirus are still out and about. Information can be weaponized to polarize each other.
  4. As the US seeks to broaden its alliances, it should engage partners not just on trade and traditional security issues, but also on emerging “nontraditional” challenges. One principal area for America to collaborate constructively with Asian nations is in “natural security,” or the security implications of climate change, environmental degradation and natural resource dependence.
  5. We could also establish bilateral technology funds, funds could support a range of initiatives, from seed projects to road test high-risk ideas to incubators for startups innovating at the nexus of defense and commercial applications.
  6. We could build anonymous data sets with U.S. allies to offset China’s scale advantage in the arena or its potential deliberate policy choices. Each government’s initiative to pool select, curated datasets can be used by companies and innovators in each country.

Achieving national security and next administration’s priorities will continue to require working across those barriers. It cannot be done without building upon what has already been effective and also through tapping into convening grounds across the public and the private entities for a safer and a more secure world.