Guest Opinion: The important role of tech in national security and economic growth

Technological innovation and advances have changed the quality of life of people throughout
the world. American tech has created jobs, opportunities, and economic growth all across our
country. Using core technology tools and platforms, millions of small businesses have been able
to thrive throughout the pandemic. American tech also aids in securing our country’s national
security interests and our economic competitiveness. Misguided regulations and policies
currently being discussed in Congress could put all of this and more at risk and put us on an
unwanted path.

Startups are a special piece of Utah’s innovative environment. In 2020, Forbes ranked Utah as
the best state for entrepreneurs, and a study from wallethub.com in 2021, found that six of the
10 best small cities to start a business are in Utah. Unfortunately, anti-innovation legislation on
Capitol Hill will restrict this system by depriving startups ability to raise capital and jeopardize
the tools that small businesses use every day to reach new and existing customers, build trust,
and boost economic growth.

Throughout the pandemic, technology tools and services helped millions of small businesses
survive while social distancing reduced in-person revenue. For many small businesses, social
media platforms and other online marketing tools allowed them to continue doing business,
enter new markets and reach new customers online.

Along the same lines, technology also empowers consumers. Customers are more connected
now than ever before, with an unlimited amount of online information, resources, products, and
services. Social media platforms provide channels for customers to communicate with
businesses and share their opinions or products with others. Breaking up tech companies and
other innovation-damaging legislation will hurt consumers, small businesses, and our country’s
economic recovery.

Despite the pandemic causing economic lows, Utah’s economy has been booming. In
November 2021, Utah’s unemployment rate dropped to a historic low of 2.1%, which is half the
national mark of 4.2%. Even as COVID-19 variants evolve, Utah consumers remain stable and
confident, and retail sales continue to grow compared to 2020. Some policymakers seem out of
touch with their constituents by pushing tech regulation. A 2021 survey released by Ipsos,
indicates that voters in frontline districts want their elected officials to focus on issues of national
security, jobs, and health care as opposed to over-regulating tech companies that have helped
America’s competitive advantage in the international marketplace. In fact, 83% of participants
think breaking up tech companies will make the U.S. less economically competitive, more
vulnerable to cyberattacks (87%), and be less able to conduct counterterrorism efforts.

American technology companies help maintain our national security interests, and innovation is
required to advance our national defense and cybersecurity strategy. With cyberattacks growing
in frequency and complexity, America’s technology companies serve a critical part in the fighting
and preventing cyber threats. China has acknowledged they are committed to destroying the U.S. tech advancement by any means to be the world’s leading power. Policies that relinquish
our competitive edge to foreign entities put Americans’ safety, privacy, and economic prosperity
at risk.

Specifically, these misguided bills could put our most successful companies at a disadvantage
and force them to provide data and intellectual property (IP) to foreign rivals. To take a case in
point, every year, China steals more than $500 billion in IP from the U.S. As a result of
increased cyberattacks and threats, 12 national security leaders warned Congress that they
need to better understand the national security implications of the stack of antitrust bills
currently under consideration. We are in a critical moment where the choices Congress makes
are likely to have considerable long-term effects. Rather than working to break up U.S. tech
companies, lawmakers should work to stop China’s dangerous global initiatives.

We should not need to agree with tech executives’ political views or personally approve of every
product to appreciate American tech’s importance to small businesses and national security.
Policymakers must protect what gives our country an edge and should fully understand the
long-term consequences their actions may have. I encourage our Congressional leaders to
include tech leaders in the conversation in outlining a pathway that will secure sustained long-
term economic growth and national security.

Andrew Sandstrom is President Emeritus, BYU College Republicans