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News from the National Academies
Date: June 25, 2002
Contacts: Bill Kearney, Media Relations Officer
Jennifer Burris, Media Relations Associate
Corbin Arberg, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

U.S. SHOULD HARNESS SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
CAPABILITIES TO FIGHT TERRORISM

WASHINGTON -- The United States should take advantage of its scientific and engineering strengths to detect, thwart, and respond to terrorist attacks more effectively, says a new National Academies report. The report identifies actions, including deployment of available technologies, that can be taken immediately, and it points to the urgent need to initiate research and development activities in critical areas. An independent homeland security institute also should be established to help the government make crucial technical decisions and devise strategies that can be put into practice successfully.

"The scientific and engineering community is aware that it can make a critical contribution to protecting the nation from catastrophic terrorism," said Lewis M. Branscomb, co-chair of the committee that wrote report, and emeritus professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. "Our report gives the government a blueprint for using current technologies and creating new capabilities to reduce the likelihood of terrorist attacks and the severity of their consequences."

The report emphasizes that certain actions can be taken now to make the nation safer -- protect and control nuclear weapons and material, produce sufficient supplies of vaccines and antibodies, secure shipping containers and power grids, and improve ventilation systems and emergency communications. Dozens of specific recommendations are offered on research and development activities that can lead to technologies with the potential for lessening vulnerabilities to terrorism. For example, advances in biology and medicine can make it possible to produce drugs to fight pathogens for which there are no current treatments. New approaches to making electric-power grids intelligent and adaptive can make them much less vulnerable to attack, allowing power to be preserved for critical services such as communication and transportation. New computer programs for data-mining and information fusion can make it much easier to "connect the dots" among apparently unrelated fragments of intelligence information and to comb
ine sensor readings to allow rapid detection of toxic agents and other threats.

Research also can lead to new emergency equipment, such as better protective gear for rescue workers and sensors to alert them to radiological or chemical contamination and other hazards when they enter a disaster area. Buildings can be made more blast and fire resistant than they are today with improved design standards, and new methods for air filtration and decontamination can lessen casualties from certain types of attacks and greatly speed up recovery.

"These opportunities will go unrealized unless the government is able to establish and execute a coherent strategy for taking advantage of the nation's scientific and technical capabilities," added co-chair Richard D. Klausner, executive director of global health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle. "The federal agencies with science and engineering expertise are not necessarily the same as the agencies responsible for deploying systems to protect the nation, and they all must work together to discover and implement the best counterterrorism technologies."

The Office of Homeland Security is currently responsible for setting a national counterterrorism strategy and coordinating relevant programs. To help determine priorities and create an effective technical strategy, the Office of Homeland Security should establish a new Homeland Security Institute comprised of experts who can analyze vulnerabilities in critical infrastructures and evaluate the effectiveness of systems deployed to reduce them, the committee said. This should include "red teaming" exercises where institute personnel play the role of terrorists to discover weaknesses in U.S. defenses. The institute should be a not-for-profit, contractor-operated organization staffed with people experienced in analyzing complex systems and responding quickly to requests for advice from senior government officials.

A new Department of Homeland Security, as proposed by President Bush, will need an undersecretary for technology to coordinate science and technology programs within the department and to keep it connected to research-oriented agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense, as well as the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Homeland Security Institute proposed by the committee should support the undersecretary for technology once the new department is established.

The report is directed primarily to the federal government, but the committee recognizes that it will be essential for the federal government to work closely with many other institutions - such as cities and states, private companies, and universities - to discover and deploy counterterrorism solutions. Many of the nation's critical infrastructures -- such as transportation, communications, and energy systems -- are privately owned and operated. To make it easier for these companies to improve the likelihood that their services and facilities can survive a terrorist attack, government and industrial research should be directed toward producing technologies that not only protect infrastructures, but also deliver economic and social benefits to society. This will reduce the costs of security and help sustain the public's commitment to counterterrorism efforts.

Shortly after Sept. 11, the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine offered President Bush the advice and counsel of the National Academies in the new war on terrorism. Under the auspices of the National Research Council, the Academies' operating arm, this committee and eight supporting panels included 118 of the nation's top scientists, engineers, and doctors.

The report was funded by the National Academies, which provide science, engineering, and medical advice to the federal government under a congressional charter granted to the National Academy of Sciences in 1863. A committee roster follows. Pre-publication copies of MAKING THE NATION SAFER: THE ROLE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN COUNTERING TERRORISM are available from the National Academy Press; tel. (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at HTTP://WWW.NAP.EDU. The cost is $38.00 (prepaid) plus shipping charges of $4.50 for the first copy and $.95 for each additional copy. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).


NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR COUNTERING TERRORISM

LEWIS M. BRANSCOMB1,2,3 (CO-CHAIR)
Emeritus Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management; and
Emeritus Director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program
Center for Science and International Affairs
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.

RICHARD D. KLAUSNER1,3 (CO-CHAIR)
Executive Director of Global Health
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Seattle

JOHN D. BALDESCHWIELER1
J. Stanley Johnson Professor, and
Professor of Chemistry, emeritus
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena

BARRY R. BLOOM1,3
Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases
Harvard School of Public Health
Boston

L. PAUL BREMER III
Chairman, Crisis Consulting
Marsh and McLennan Companies Inc.
Washington, D.C.

WILLIAM F. BRINKMAN1
Vice President
Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies (retired)
Murray Hill, N.J.

ASHTON B. CARTER
Ford Foundation Professor of Science and International Affairs
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.

CHARLES B. CURTIS
President and Chief Operating Officer
Nuclear Threat Initative
Washington, D.C.

MORTIMER L. DOWNEY
Principal Consultant
PB Consultanting
Washington, D.C.

RICHARD L. GARWIN1,2,3
Philip D. Reed Senior Fellow for Science and Technology
Council on Foreign Relations, and
Emeritus Fellow
IBM T.J. Watson Research Center
Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

PAUL H. GILBERT2
Director Emeritus
Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc., and
Senior Vice President
Parsons Brinckerhoff International Inc.
Seattle

M.R.C. GREENWOOD3
Chancellor
University of California
Santa Cruz

MARGARET A. HAMBURG3
Vice President for Biological Programs
Nuclear Threat Initiative
Washington, D.C.

WILLIAM HAPPER1
Professor, Department of Physics
Princeton University
Princeton, N.J.

JOHN L. HENNESSY1,2
President
Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.

JOSHUA LEDERBERG1,3
Sackler Foundation Scholar
Rockefeller University
New York City

THOMAS C. SCHELLING1,3
Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Economics, emeritus
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.
MAXINE F. SINGER1,3
President
Carnegie Institution of Washington
Washington, D.C.

NEIL J. SMELSER1
Director
Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (retired)
Stanford, Calif.

PHILIP M. SMITH
Co-Chair
Advisory Board
California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, and
Partner
McGeary and Smith
Washington, D.C.

P. ROY VAGELOS1,3
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Merck and Co. Inc. (retired)
Bedminster, N.J.

VINCENT VITTO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc.
Cambridge, Mass.

GEORGE M. WHITESIDES1
Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.

R. JAMES WOOLSEY JR.
Partner
Shea & Gardner
Washington, D.C.

RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF

RONALD D. TAYLOR
Study Director

ELIZABETH L. GROSSMAN
Program Officer


1 Member, National Academy of Sciences
2 Member, National Academy of Engineering
3 Member, Institute of Medicine