"Educational failure puts the United States' future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk," warns an Independent Task Force report on US Education Reform and National Security, sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a leading think tank.

The United States "will not be able to keep pace - much less lead - globally unless it moves to fix the problems it has allowed to fester for too long," argues the Task Force, chaired by Joel I. Klein, former head of New York City public schools, and Condoleezza Rice, former US secretary of state.

The report notes that while the United States invests more in K-12 (Kindergarten to class 12) public education than many other developed countries, its students are ill prepared to compete with their global peers.

The lack of preparedness poses threats on five national security fronts: economic growth and competitiveness, physical safety, intellectual property, US global awareness, and US unity and cohesion, says the report.

Too many young people are not employable in an increasingly high-skilled and global economy, and too many are not qualified to join the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records, or have an inadequate level of education.

"Human capital will determine power in the current century, and the failure to produce that capital will undermine America's security," the report states.

"Large, undereducated swaths of the population damage the ability of the United States to physically defend itself, protect its secure information, conduct diplomacy, and grow its economy."