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FYI Number 22: February 28, 2001

Recommendations of Hart-Rudman National Security Report: R&D

"Second only to a weapon of mass destruction detonating in an American city, we can think of nothing more dangerous than a failure to manage properly science, technology, and education for the common good over the next quarter century."
- U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century

As reported in FYI #21, the Hart-Rudman Commission on National Security for the 21st Century has recommended a series of reforms that are intended to enable the government to address the national security challenges of the new century. Several major recommendations deal with the nation's scientific research and education enterprises. The report states, "We have made Recapitalizing America's Strengths in Science and Education the second section of this report despite the fact that science management and education issues are rarely ranked as paramount national security priorities. We do so to emphasize their crucial and growing importance."

This FYI highlights the specific recommendations for the nation's science enterprise, along with supporting quotes from the report. FYI #23 will address the recommendations for education.

I. "The President should propose, and the Congress should support, doubling the U.S. government's investment in science and technology research and development by 2010."

In particular, the report calls for more funding of basic research and technology development. "We stand on the cusp of major discoveries in several interlocking fields, and we stand to benefit, as well, from major strides in scientific instrumentation. As a result, the way is clear to design large- scale scientific and technological experiments in key fields - not unlike the effort of the International Geophysical Year in 1958, the early space program, or the project to decode the human genome. In the judgment of this Commission, the U.S. government has not taken a broad, systematic approach to investing in science and technology R&D, and thus will not be able to sustain projects of such scale and boldness."

II. "The President should empower his Science Advisor to establish non-military R&D objectives that meet changing national needs, and to be responsible for coordinating budget development within the relevant departments and agencies."

While the Commission recommends against a single federal S&T agency, it notes that "the government has to better coordinate" its R&D efforts. "It is not possible to spend $80 billion wisely each year, let alone twice that much, unless we know where research bottlenecks and opportunities exist. There is no one place in the U.S. government where such inventory stewardship is performed." The report suggests "that OSTP, in conjunction with the National Science Foundation - and with the counsel of the National Academies of Science - design a system for the ongoing basic inventory stewardship of the nation's capital knowledge assets."

According to the Commission, much of the federal R&D budget "still reflects legacies of the Cold War and the Industrial Age. We do not suggest that this money is being wasted in any direct sense, but its benefits are not being maximized. For example, we believe that defense-related R&D should go back to funding more basic research, for in recent years it has tilted too much toward the 'D' over the 'R' in R&D. More important, we could derive more benefit from our investment in non-defense R&D if the context for it were a more competitive one." The Commission therefore suggests "that the President's Science Advisor, beyond his proposed budget coordination role, should lead an effort to revise government R&D practices and budget allocations to make the process more competitive." It also proposes "that the government foster a 'creative market' for a greater number of research institutions to bid on government research funds," and suggests "that a strengthened and more active National Science and Technology Council preside over an on-going effort to multiply creative, targeted R&D programs within government."

III. "The President should propose, and the Congress should fund, the reorganization of the national laboratories, providing individual laboratories with new mission goals that minimize overlap."

The Commission finds the U.S. national laboratories "remain a national R&D treasure," but are "badly in need of redefinition and new investment.... Without any compelling force analogous to that of the Cold War to drive government funding and the direction of R&D, the labs have been left to drift. Nuclear research has given way mostly to maintenance of the nation's nuclear arsenal and efforts to dismantle nuclear weapons and manage their radioactive wastes. But...these are tasks that a single major laboratory can handle." The report continues, "the labs remain critical in fulfilling America's S&T national security needs and in addressing S&T issues pertinent to the public good. Each major laboratory needs a clearly defined mission area."

The report also warns that, in addition to deterioration of the labs' physical infrastructure, "the security breaches and the subsequent series of investigations in recent years have produced a serious morale problem - and made recruitment and retention problems even more acute. If this cycle is not broken, our national advantage in S&T will suffer further."

Additionally, the report states that "the potential for good and ill stemming from many of the recent developments in the scientific and technical domain is at least as great, if not greater, than that of atomic energy.... New scientific discovery and innovation in information technologies, nanotechnology, and biotechnologies will have a major impact on social, economic, and political life in the United States and elsewhere." The Commission describes the need for "a public-trust gather knowledge and to develop informed judgment as the basis for public policy. We especially need a permanent framework that brings public sector, private sector, and higher education together to examine the implications of today's technological revolution." In order to provide "a forum for the articulation of all responsible interests in the implications of new biotechnology and other new technologies," the Commission recommends "that Congress transform the current National Bioethics Advisory Commission into a much strengthened National Advisory Commission on Bioscience."

The full report, "Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change," is available at

Audrey Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3094

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