China’s Communist Party has long been stealing U.S. technology and research and buying influence in developing nations to overthrow the U.S. as the number one spot in the world. To combat this threat, a Silicon Valley legend teamed up with powerhouse technology and policy experts to form a groundbreaking new think tank. Their mission is no easy task — to stop key technologies from falling into the hands of authoritarian governments — particularly the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In September 2021, Silicon Valley veteran-turned globetrotting former State Department Under Secretary for Economics Keith Krach joined forces with Mung Chiang and Bonnie Glick — fellow experts in the technology and policy arenas — to form the Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue University. The institute helps educate U.S. and global policymakers on critical technologies and how to guard those technologies against exploitation by countries like China and Russia.
Krach — the institute’s namesake — has been convening world leaders to educate them on technologies critical to U.S. foreign policy, as well as how leaders and partners can shape a global technology agenda that promotes freedom, democracy, and human rights. The institute is facilitating this mission through technology diplomacy training programs staffed with Purdue faculty and global subject matter experts, research and content highlighting the intersection of technology and foreign policy, as well as events where industry professionals and international delegations can network through trusted technology.
Krach served as CEO for Ariba and DocuSign and brought both Silicon Valley companies public. In a unanimous voice vote, the Senate confirmed him for his Trump-era State Department role. As a leader of the State Department’s economic policy, Krach harnessed his economic prowess to develop a global campaign to challenge China’s authoritarian grasp of 5G technology and semiconductors, and exposed China’s widespread human rights abuses and genocide. He continues to advise President Joe Biden’s administration and serves as the institute’s chairman.
Chiang served as the science and technology advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompe. He’s now Executive Vice President of Purdue University for strategic initiatives, dean of the College of Engineering at Purdue, as well as a primary founder of CTDP. In 2013, he received the Alan T. Waterman Award, the highest honor for scientists and engineers under age 40 in the U.S.
Glick, the former deputy administrator and chief operating officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Krach Institute’s inaugural director, told American Military News the idea for the institute came about while the three of them were serving in President Donald Trump’s administration.
Glick said the trio realized concern about technology policy “has, for the most part in the federal government, been relegated to the back office conversations.” Glick said it is rare for policymakers to ask “how does that technology serve to advance freedom and how do we incorporate that into our foreign policy messaging?”
She pointed to China’s mass surveillance of its Uyghur minority population, Russia’s use of cyber warfare in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and North Korea taking advantage of global chaos to launch a new ballistic missile as a few of the reasons why the Krach Institute is warning world leaders that “technology must advance democracy.”
During their Trump-era tenures, Glick, Chiang, and Krach focused heavily on 5G telecommunications technology and the global supply of computer semiconductors. One issue Krach focused on, in particular, was the role Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei played in building the world’s 5G infrastructure. Krach spearheaded a campaign known as the Clean Network Initiative to get partner countries to commit to protecting data privacy by investing in 5G infrastructure from trusted vendors instead of untrusted Chinese telecommunications firms.
In a previous interview with American Military News, Krach explained how the Clean Network gained international support as he and other U.S. diplomats appealed to international partners about their distrust of China’s technology practices. Krach said his counterparts from other nations would say of China, “They’re important, they’re our number one or number two trade partner . . . but we don’t trust them.”
Krach said China initially caught traction in the global 5G market through a strategy of “seduce with money and reinforce with intimidation, retaliation and retribution.” He said the U.S. was able to get countries to drop Chinese-backed 5G projects by focusing instead on trust.
“Why don’t we treat the countries and all these [telecom companies] as a customer, and the customer’s always right, and let’s focus on a real value proposition that benefits them just like you were doing a deal in the business world,” Krach explained.
In May 2020, Krach helped broker a deal with the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to build the world’s most advanced five-nanometer microchip manufacturing plant in Arizona. The move kept China from gaining dominance over global computer chip supply and also made Taiwan an important partner of the Clean Network effort by ensuring the components — which power a variety of technology products from smartphones to 5G base stations — are made in the U.S.
Glick said 5G infrastructure and semiconductors were just two examples of areas where the Krach Institute has focused. Other issues of interest for the institute include hypersonic weapons, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and digital currencies.
Another key component of protecting emerging technologies is ensuring lawmakers and executive branch leaders understand them, which is another key focus area for the Krach Institute.
Glick said lawmakers and executive branch leaders have limited knowledge of key technologies due to “the very scarce information that’s available in mainstream publications.” the Krach Institute is taking what Glick called an “all of the above” approach to inform these policymakers about emerging technologies and how they impact the U.S. and its allies.
Several of the institute’s fellows are Purdue University professors with in-depth knowledge of a variety of technologies and can explain the ins and outs of how they work. Other fellows are former policymakers who can write articles and policy papers with the right language about how the U.S. can deal with these technologies. The Krach Institute is also serving as a convening center by inviting target audiences of congressional and executive branch staff for “tech salons” where the institute can train them to better understand these technologies and related policy.
One approach the Krach Institue has also taken is hosting dinners with both congressional staff and a guest ambassador from various foreign nations. The institute uses these dinners to brief attendees on a specific technology. Since September, the institute has hosted the Estonian ambassador to the U.S. and the Japanese ambassador to the U.S., and is slated to host the Finnish ambassador to the U.S. this month.
Glick said the institute is also relying on Purdue University’s “deep bench” of faculty expertise in developing “102-level” training seminars for its audience of congressional and executive branch staff.
Dan DeLaurentis, a researcher for the Department of Defense’s Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) and a professor of astronautics and aeronautics at Purdue, led one of the Krach Institute’s first “102-level” training seminars on January 20 on hypersonic technology. DeLaurentis, who is one of the institute’s first senior fellows, was tasked with teaching a group of about 25 State Department, Capitol Hill and fellow institute attendees as much as he could about hypersonic technology in just three hours.
Hypersonic technology is one area, where the U.S. faces significant competition from both Russia and China. In November, U.S. Space Force Vice Chief of Space Operation Gen. David Thompson said the U.S. hypersonic technology is actually behind China’s and Russia’s and has “a lot of catching up to do” and “very quickly.”
DeLaurentis told American Military News his seminar provided a “holistic picture” of U.S. hypersonic technology, detailing both technical aspects of hypersonic systems and defenses as well as potential policies and goals the U.S. can pursue regarding such systems.
DeLaurentis delivered a technical overview of “what these weapons can do, what they can’t do, and the same for our ability to defend.” He also challenged his audience to think strategically, posing questions like “what’s the best strategy for a combined offense and defense related to hypersonics?”
DeLaurentis also informed attendees about specific ways the U.S. collaborates with allies to speed the development of hypersonic technology.
“I pointed out the small but growing number of really true collaborations between the U.S. and particular allies in hypersonics research,” DeLaurentis said. “. . . Australia has been a key partner for many years because they have excellent flight test ranges for hypersonics. So there’s that bigger picture of collaboration with allies that especially State Department people need to know about.”
Glick explained that the Krach Institute’s policy papers, guest dinners, technology salons and “102-level” seminars are all designed to help inform lawmakers and executive branch leaders so they’re better prepared to craft effective policy for emerging technologies.
The Krach Institute has built up its powerhouse team by recruiting experts with a range of expertise and bipartisan backgrounds. In the six months since its launch, the institute has brought on a former secretary of defense, a former four-star general, a former member of congress, and several other high-ranking technologists and policymakers.
Leon Panetta, the former CIA director and Secretary of Defense for President Barack Obama, joined the institute in December, lending military policy-making expertise to the board.
Panetta cited Krach’s work on the Clean Network initiative as a reason for joining The Krach Institute’s board when it was then called the Center for Tech Diplomacy.
“China’s techno-economic aggression presents a serious threat to the United States and the free world, especially when it comes to advanced technologies such as 5G, AI, and semiconductors,” Panetta said. “The key to securing freedom is securing high tech through widespread adoption of trusted technologies. The Clean Network pioneered a trust-based model for countering authoritarian aggression across all areas of techno-economic competition. I support the adoption of that successful model by the Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue in its noble mission, and I am honored to join its Advisory Board.”
Retired U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s addition to the institute’s board lends further military expertise to its subject matter experts.
“The Center has created the new diplomatic effort known as Tech Statecraft by building the bridges that link the worlds of high tech and foreign policy in order to ensure trusted technology is used to advance freedom rather than authoritarianism,” McChrystal said in January. “The Center for Tech Diplomacy is rapidly becoming the foremost authority on securing freedom through Tech Statecraft. I’m honored to be part of this critical effort.”
Daniel Goldin, the longest-serving NASA administrator, who served for Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush is also on the Krach Institute’s board.
Robert Hormats —who like Krach served as the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment during the Obama administration — is also on the institute’s board.
William Elmore, who co-founded the technology investment firm Foundation Capital, is also a member of the institute’s board.
Other board members include former Republican Indiana Congresswoman Susan Brooks and Mary Kissel, who served as a senior advisor to Secretary of State Pompeo.
“These are not partisan issues,” Glick said. “Cybersecurity is not a partisan issue, quantum computing is not partisan. These are all things that we have broad recognition across U.S. government that these are American national security issues that require focus in a nonpartisan way.”
In addition to building a bipartisan coalition within the U.S., the institute is also sharing its messaging with partner nations. In addition to its policy dinners, which host foreign ambassadors, the Krach Institute has also brought on former Indian Ambassador to the European Union Rajendra Abyankar as a senior fellow.
“We are very much in startup mode,” Glick said. “So our international outreach has been very fast and very broad.”
Glick said the institute has also hosted the “Ambassadors Distinguished Lecture Series,” which has invited current ambassadors from Sweden and India and has scheduled the ambassadors from Brazil and Australia for other upcoming lecture series events.
The Krach Institute has made steady headway, but their startup work is far from over. Glick said the institute has already been reaching out “fast and furious” to the diplomatic community of like-minded nations and already “we’ve gotten great buy-in” in terms of participation.