We Must Shoot for the Moon
“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” President John F. Kennedy (1962)
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a special session of Congress that the United States planned to put Americans on the moon, and return them safely to Earth, before the end of the decade.
In these unprecedented times of globally-shared human security challenges and turbulences, public health emergencies such as the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic require greater leadership, imagination, and innovation in anticipating and addressing today’s geo-security realities and tomorrow’s converging cross-border threats.
As we approach the 1,000,000 mark of confirmed cases worldwide in a few days, and as many more infections are recorded in the weeks and months to come, no country will be immune from COVID-19. We must tackle these threats by not assigning blame or fault to any one country or one community for the spread or outbreak because it may be politically expedient to do so, but our targeted energies should be to find hard solutions now and to help save as many lives as we can in the United States and globally. Across borders at this dawn of necessity and resoluteness, we need to be united and continue to “flatten the curve”. COVID-19 knows no borders and mercilessly attacks indiscriminately, not caring about culture, ethnicity and race, social economics, developed or developing economies, or status and wealth.
While the international community will weather COVID-19 in due course, moving forward will require more coordinated and cooperative efforts within states and nations, enduring investments in medical supplies and equipment to help our first responders, and anticipatory and decisive leadership that harnesses the energies of our collective creativity, imagination, innovation, and a convergence of disruptive technologies, to make progress every day against our common security challenges across borders such as COVID-19.
Fauci and Fibonacci: When science, imagination, inspired leadership, and transparency converge, our institutions and citizens can have a higher sense of purpose with a comfort that our best and brightest can solve today’s problems. Exemplary efforts such as those exhibited in recent weeks by notable leaders such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, strengthen our confidence that we can overcome any peril that faces us when dedicated public servants lead and speak truth based on science and facts.
People appreciate candor, respect honesty, and want to receive information based on data on how preventive and mitigation strategies to combat the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Fauci has often underscored how one must block infections from coming in at the onset, but if it does, one needs to aggressively work on its containment and mitigation. Because the truth is that we don’t make the timeline on COVID-19 curve of new infections, the “virus itself determines that timetable.”
The fact is without strong preventive measures and protective interventions, the coronavirus will continue to spread exponentially (COVID-19 exponential curve) where infections double every three days that could easily amount to millions of cases in the United States alone by May 2020. This is similar to a scenario of receiving a penny (1¢) which is then doubled every day for 30 days which would amount to $5,368,709.12 by the 30th day.
There is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus.
But like the possible spread of COVID-19 left unmitigated, we must fight this insidious COVID-19 exponential curve with our own exponential one as exemplified, for example, by the Fibonacci sequence: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, . . . . . where each number (Fibonacci number) is equaled to the sum of the preceding two numbers. [For example, the Fibonacci “3” is determined by adding the two numbers before it (1+2), and so on and so forth.]
The beauty of the Fibonacci sequence illuminates with some clarity that it is not only scientifically exponential, but also beautifully intelligent as shown by the way that the fibonacci numbers reflect the possibilities for new innovative solutions that illustrate the potential of our minds as powerful as the secrets of the fibonacci spirals across our natural world including in space (the Milky Way and solar systems), on earth (flowers and rivers), and human (body proportions, DNA helixes). As we all search for new innovations, we can build on each and every one in a trajectory that may lead exponentially to further discoveries.
We must innovate new possibilities and opportunities, to develop pathfinding solutions that help us mitigate the harmful effects posed by COVID-19, future pandemics, natural disasters, climate change, famine, insecurity, illicit trade (fake medicines, trafficking in humans, opioids, counterfeit and pirated goods, endangered wildlife, WMD, pillaged natural resources), and other global threats that can, and will, destabilize our communities in the years to come.
These past few weeks have provided an opportunity to further reflect and to brainstorm on innovative ways to work with others to develop better policies, more pragmatic approaches, and smarter solutions on as we confront our current crisis and global public health emergency.
While good people all around the world are similarly offering many great ideas to galvanize a new momentum to confront these global challenges, I provide my own thoughts below that may reinforce those of others and that can be part of the current dialogue.
Imagination: In the evolving universe of solutions and collaborations, I believe that collectively we can meet the challenge, similar to the way that President Kennedy once inspired the world to “shoot for the moon”, and develop new transformative technologies, innovations, and solutions that help to make our world a better place today and confront tomorrow’s threats.
Straight Talk – Moral Courage In Our Darkest Times: In times of crisis and global trauma, we must be able to trust our leaders to speak truth and help us balance our fears with optimism, our anxiety with confidence. Decisive leadership is imperative as is a premium on leadership that speaks truth to our communities in the public interest. Candor, integrity, and assurance are invaluable for leaders across sectors when they communicate with people about the real world. Transparency engenders trust. Such leadership must be anchored on honesty and speaking truth about facts and realities on the ground; not covering up one’s tracks or blaming others; and owning up to one’s mistakes transparently and openly so that such lessons can be learned to mitigate future threats.
Leaders must also take command and lead with firm and inspiring vision, integrity, and trust that fuels energies and commitments that transcend self-interest and lead to optimal action and full spectrum dominance – where communities recognize “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” and where all instruments of power and persuasion are channeled for optimal success to confront existing and looming threats.
In the future, we will also need better contingency planning similar to the exercises that the U.S. military undertakes for national defense and warfighting policies. In developing such contingency plans for global pandemics and other transnational security threats, it will be important to implement and execute recommended greater actions rapidly in such plans for mitigating harms from the get-go, coordinating national strategies to solve national crises (so that states don’t compete with one another or apply different standards than their neighboring states), and to build national responses that build resiliency across all of our communities. Finally, we must ensure that accountability provisions are enforced in policy decisons to fight transnational threats, and in the aftermath including on national resiliency efforts to protect against fraud and corruption with respect to the trillions of dollars that the U.S. Congress has authorized and passed, and which the President has signed into law, related to the Coronavirus Stimulus Package. [H.R. 748, the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the “CARES” Act (the “Act”)]
Data Analytics to Inform Evidence-Based Decisions: We must better understand science and evidence-based research, objectively assess facts, and listen to our medical professionals and technical experts and scientists. In today’s geo-security landscapes, there is a tsunami of data. But not all data is good data. How best to rapidly collect, analyze, and convert the exponentially-available data into actionable intelligence becomes vital to save lives and to keep us safe. Some of the early mis-steps in the global response to COVID-19 related not only to the lack of decisive leadership but also efforts to suppress critical data early on, for example, suppression of information locally in China that could have saved lives globally. Evidence-based analytics presented in a timely manner across the international community are indispensable so that public health policy officials can confront threats more quickly and develop effective responses.
In the United States, there were reports that the US Government did not marry anticipatory intelligence and early warnings with more aggressive responses in early 2020 as COVID-19 was spreading throughout the country. In the United States, as intelligence agencies were providing ominous warnings about the global danger posed by COVID-19, their concerns fell on deaf ears and many officials failed to take action that may have mitigated the spread and harmful impacts in the country, and globally through cross-border coordination. Among the lessons learned so far is that we need to make the necessary investments for fighting future pandemics and maintain budget levels, especially in offices and agencies responsible for monitoring pandemics and other global threats, and ensuring that our national emergency stockpiles are at maximum capacity to meet the next pandemic or other national (and global) disasters, threats, and shocks.
Data analytics, facts, and science must inform better policies moving forward. Anticipatory leadership and strategic foresight should be a higher priority with governments where evidence-based intelligence helps all communities to anticipate emerging threats on the horizon so that we can respond quickly to attack and mitigate harms. As some national security experts have pointed out, we must get ahead of future threats by investing in anticipatory systems and early threat warning detections, otherwise we risk being overtaken by them.
Optimism (“Can do” spirit) and Thought Leadership: Americans are entrepreneurial in spirit and action as demonstrated over and over by achievements such as putting people on the moon, satellites in space, and through scientific research that has lead to a universe of discoveries in biotech, high-tech, and other disciplines and sectors that have revolutionized global medicine, commerce, and science and are positive steps for humankind. In solving the multitude of security and economic challenges in times of crisis, we need to be not only bold but willing to tap our imaginative energies and experiment with new ideas that excite new possibilities.
I am confident that our forward-thinking corporate leaders and innovators across industries and societies will continue to come through with pioneering ideas and brainstorms to markets that help make our lives better, but that also protect us from future threats. Already, it is great to see this “Ameri-CAN” spirit from the private sector as some have repurposed their production capacity and supply chains to deliver products to hospitals and communities to fight COVID-19, such as alcohol and perfume companies and small-and-medium businesses converting their factories to produce hand sanitizers; companies that make uniforms for major league baseball teams converting to make face masks; or car companies re-engineering some production systems used to make seat ventilation fans to build much-needed respirators, and other innovations to make ventilators.
Innovation and Impactful Transformative Technologies: In addition to the importance of thought leadership, harnessing talents and transformative technologies will be important to tackle outbreaks now with novel medicines and smart solutions, that will also help make our health and well-being better in the future. In recent days, there have been talks of a new rapid diagnostic test to detect COVID-19 in 45 minutes or less. Some are also looking at repurposing current preventive and therapeutic treatments and medicines to confront COVID-19, and clinical trials are being done to ensure their effectiveness and safety. Many other innovative research efforts are being made across the pharmaceutical industry, and other sectors to save lives.
Neuroscience, AI, robotics, blockchain, and other technologies will also lead to pioneering approaches to improve health, well-being and productivity around the world. For example, AI can help us to track pandemics, how they are spreading within a community, and fight them now in real-time, and in the future. AI is also helping to discover new antibiotics to fight COVID-19. Telemedicine (virtual visits) has become more important to safely diagnose patients without spreading viral infections at hospitals, clinics, and medical offices.
Because of necessity related to social distancing, distributed work at home policies, school closures, and travel bans and other restrictions, the current pandemic crisis is also revolutionizing the modern workspace environment across sectors, industries, schools, and communities. Information technology has helped to bring the world together including online conferences to share best practices and new findings in science, medicines and other disciplines and fields, professional meetings and workshops, remote learning, and socially, to support one another in difficult times and to remain connected with communities.
I believe I have a personal responsibility to make a positive impact on society. Dr. Anthony Fauci
Collaboration, Collective Action and Partnerships: We are all in this global threat crisis together, be it COVID-19, climate change, or other mutually-shared threats. It is important to take a united, joint, and global team approach that leverages everyone’s expertise and contributions. Where individuals and societies feel that they are part of the collective effort to do good and solve problems they will work hard and sacrifice the “me” for the “we”.
Selflessness, Empathy and Compassion: In sum, we must hope that through our collective leadership, energies, and faith we can conquer our current tribulations. We can know that we wholeheartedly rose up to meet a dire challenge through not only social distancing, caring and supporting one another – from our loved one who may be infected to our doctors, nurses, and medical professionals and first responders on the frontlines fighting to save lives – but also by recognizing that we were all in this global crisis together, united with our imagination and innovation to unlock some new amazing possibilities and solutions that ensure that mankind endures.
To all of our first responders and armies of compassionate doers in the United States and around the world supporting our hospitals, caring for our sick, saving lives, innovating new solutions, and protecting our communities: Thank you! Stay Strong, Stay Healthy, Stay Safe!
With intelligence, imagination, innovation, and decisive leadership, we can positively change our world for the better, and help bring our humanity and planet back into balance.
David Luna is President and CEO of Luna Global Networks & Convergence Strategies LLC.
A former U.S. diplomat and national security official, Mr. Luna is a frequent speaker on transnational security threats, international affairs, geopolitical risks, illicit trade and the global illegal economy. Mr. Luna held numerous senior positions with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), including directorships for national security, transnational crime and illicit networks, and anti-corruption and good governance; and was an advisor to the Secretary’s Coordinator for the Rule of Law. Mr. Luna also served as an Assistant Counsel to the President, Office of the Counsel to the President, The White House; and other positions with the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Senate.
Mr. Luna is the new Chair of the Business at OECD Anti-Illicit Trade Expert Group, Chair of the Anti-Illicit Trade Committee of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), and former President of the OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade; Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Illicit Trade and Organized Crime, Chair, APEC Anti-Corruption and Transparency (ACT) Working Group, and other leadership positions in numerous diplomatic fora. He is also the Director for the Anti-Illicit Trade Institute at the Terrorism, Transnational Crime, and Corruption Center (TraCCC), George Mason University. Mr. Luna is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College and received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and his J.D. from The Columbus School of Law, The Catholic University of America.
A Strategic Advantage: Luna Global Networks is well-prepared to help tackle among the most pressing illicit trade and governance challenges and security threats across borders, markets, and industries through convergence strategies and tactical plans that target an illicit threat environment holistically; net-centric partnerships that harness collective action; design of pragmatic brand protection solutions; harnessing of transformative technologies that produce greater results, enduring solutions.