America’s debate on energy policy is consumed by partisanship and short-term thinking. Whether the debate today focuses on tax credits for specific technologies or removing regulatory hurdles to allow for more energy production, policymakers are failing to plan for the long haul. Instead we should ask: what do we want our energy mix to look like in 10, 20, or 30 years? How do we address climate change, ensure energy reliability, and create high-tech industries for the next generation?

Existing energy technologies will play a part. However, the world also needs transformational change in the energy industry. Fusion energy holds this potential. By fusing together two hydrogen atoms, enormous quantities of energy can be produced. When successfully commercialized, it will be a near-optimal source of power – clean, safe, secure, and virtually inexhaustible.

Given this potential, it should come as no surprise that more and more countries around the world are beginning to invest in fusion power. The American Security Project recently released a fact sheet entitled, “International Progress on Fusion Energy,” which describes how some of America’s biggest competitors are moving ahead on fusion energy.

In Europe, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have plans to expand their domestic fusion programs with support from both the European Union and their own national budgets. The Laser Megajoule project-modeled after America’s National Ignition Facility (NIF), located at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California-is a French laser fusion facility that will begin operating in 2014. Germany is developing the Wendelstein 7-X, an advanced magnetic fusion device called a stellarator, which will be more powerful than any American fusion facility. The United Kingdom meanwhile has two major fusion projects at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy that are constantly being updated.

Countries in Asia are also enthusiastically moving forward with a number of fusion projects. Japan, with limited indigenous energy resources and plans to transition away from nuclear fission power, is aggressively investing in fusion power. Japan’s Large Helical Device (LHD) is currently the largest stellarator in the world. It also is working on a superconducting tokamak – a fusion power device – called the JT-60SA, one of the world’s largest. Finally, Japan’s inertial fusion project, dubbed FIREX, will incorporate lessons learned from the NIF and utilize the results to perform more powerful experiments on its own.

The two nations most aggressively funding fusion energy are China and South Korea. The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), located in Hefei, China, is the world’s first fully superconducting tokamak. It was declared a “Mega Project of Scientific Research” by the Chinese government, a testament to the seriousness given to fusion power by Beijing. In addition, in 2011 China committed to training 2,000 new fusion scientists over the next ten years.

South Korea is moving quickly on fusion power, having assembled one of the world’s first tokamaks to use superconducting magnets, called the KSTAR. The Korean government recently announced ambitious plans to jump ahead of its competitors with a full-scale demonstration fusion power plant called the K-DEMO.

Where does the United States stand on fusion? Despite a long history of leadership on fusion energy, America is failing to plan for the long-term. When the President released his budget request for Fiscal Year 2014 there were some troubling statistics on fusion power. The proposed domestic magnetic fusion budget under the Office of Fusion Energy and Sciences would cut FY 2012 levels by 21%, from $296 million to $233 million. On the inertial fusion side, the world-leading NIF could suffer a 15% cut from FY 2012 numbers if the proposed budget is passed.

At present, America’s fusion facilities remain adequate, however without investment they will decline. MIT’s fusion facility, the Alcator C-Mod, will be put into cold shut-down in September if the proposed budget cuts become law. As other countries invest more heavily in fusion power, America’s leadership in this field will soon come to an end. Ceding a new high-tech industry to competitors will result in a decline in America’s competitive edge, and its best and brightest scientists will be lured by more advanced facilities abroad.

Yet America still boasts a scientific community second to none, and the institutional infrastructure for a fusion power industry is in place. In a time of tight budgets, policymakers should focus on the long-term picture. Successfully developing fusion power can help the United States find a clean, safe, secure, and limitless source of energy, which can power us into the future. There is still time to reverse the course of domestic fusion cuts. We need to act now in order to secure a safer and more sustainable future.

Nick Cunningham is a Policy Analyst and Theodore J. MacDonald is an Adjunct Junior Fellow at the non-partisan American Security Project