Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism

Research-Technology Management, November-December 2002 | Go to article overview

Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism


National Research Council Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences; $38.00 (pre-paid) plus $4.50 shipping first copy from National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington D.C. 20418 http://www.nap.edu

The United States should take advantage of its scientific and engineering strengths to detect, thwart and respond to terrorist attacks more effectively, says this report from the National Research Council's Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism. The report identifies actions, including deployment of available technologies, that can be taken immediately, and it points to the urgent need to initiate R&D in critical areas.

It calls for establishing an independent homeland security institute 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 the 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 United States 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 R&D 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. …

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