American Institute of Physics
home contact us sitemap

FYI Number 32: March 22, 2001

Bingaman on Science and Technology in the State Department

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) has been a positive force behind increasing the scientific and technical capacity at the State Department. It is due to a Bingaman amendment to the Department's FY 2000 authorization bill that the position of State Department Science and Technology Adviser, now filled by Norman Neureiter, was authorized. On March 8, Bingaman hosted a Senate Science and Technology Caucus event on Capitol Hill at which Neureiter spoke. In return, Bingaman gave a talk at the State Department on March 14, at the first in a series of Secretary's Open Forums on "Science, Technology, Health and Globalization: Business, Society and National Security."

The remarks given by Neureiter to the Senate S&T Caucus echoed a speech he gave in February at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (see FYI #13). Selected portions of Bingaman's March 14 speech are reprinted below:

"I would like to make three primary points today.... First, we need to recognize that there have been significant changes in the international system and an expanded definition of what we need to address to protect our national security interests. Second, we need to recognize that the United States has not responded to these changes in a fashion that places a priority on science, technology, and health [STH] concerns, nor have we funneled adequate human and financial resources in this direction. Finally, we need to create a coherent and effective national strategy to address science, technology, and health concerns.

"As most of you in the audience are aware, the State Department has created a Strategic Plan that contains 16 international affairs strategic goals. Norm Neureiter is fond of pointing out that at least 13 out of the 16...contain science, technology and health components. Most of these goals would not previously have been considered essential to our national security interests in a different era.... But this is no longer true. In my state of New Mexico, issues like water, health, migration, the environment, energy resources, drugs, and economic development all have a significant impact on our individual welfare and are integrally related to community and regional stability.... I believe this represents an important change in the way we see the world. Seen from this perspective, one of our primary goals at this time should be to obtain and maintain the STH expertise and resources that will allow us to confront these strategic goals.

"It means that when we talk about defending national security interests, we are talking about something other than obvious political adversaries like those that were apparent in the Cold War. We are talking about an environment where friends and allies are less-defined and issues are less clear-cut. We are talking about creating foreign policy goals that address a very different world...but with the same degree of commitment and urgency that was present during the Cold War. I am convinced these goals can be achieved. But it means that we must establish and improve our ability to innovate, to cooperate, to monitor, and to analyze - all of which depend upon a sufficient, and preferably a substantial, level of STH resources and expertise committed to sustaining our position as a world leader."

"First, we need to increase resources to the principal agencies in the U.S. government that are assigned the task of protecting our national security. And please understand that when I say national security, I mean national security broadly defined. Issues like export control, nuclear safety and non-proliferation, fuel and energy resources, infectious diseases, adequate and safe food and water supply, global warming, migration, drug trafficking, intellectual property rights - all these and more define the new, 21st Century international security environment. More importantly, some fall under the jurisdiction of agencies not frequently thought to have national security policy authority. Our perception of what national security means needs to change, and our funding needs to change to reflect these concerns. Frankly, I am concerned about the early reports of the Administration's budget for some of these activities.

"Second, we need to ensure that we provide funding to critical, enabling technologies that will have a significant impact on a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines, examples being advanced computing, nanotechnology, and biotechnology.

"Third, we need to leverage existing resources and expertise by increasing interaction between agencies that typically have not been altogether cooperative in the past. One frequently mentioned example is the new and creative arrangements that have been established between both NASA and NSF and the State Department [to] allow the assignment of scientific and technical staff from NASA and NSF to overseas embassies or headquarter posts, and provides the State Department with the expertise to hold discussions and conduct negotiations on important STH issues."

Bingaman concluded:

"I believe the State Department and its employees stand at the international intersection of ideas and information, of cultures and communities, and, in the final analysis, of peace and war in the international system. After all is said and done, it is your job to sort the complexity, make it comprehensible, and make it actionable in the national interest. It is a unique and important job, and you rightly have an immense amount of pride in the task you undertake daily. Because of this imperative, I believe you need cutting edge scientific and technical tools and expertise available to you to accomplish your mission. From what I have heard, Secretary [Colin] Powell has made an initial commitment to get you on the right track by emphasizing the importance of a cutting-edge information technology system.... Furthermore, having an excellent S&T Adviser in the person of Norm Neureiter certainly will assist in the task at hand, and I am pleased to see that he is moving full-speed to raise the awareness of the STH and foreign policy issue, both within the Department and in the STH community at large.

"This is a good start, but it is only a start. I believe much remains to be done.... So let me end today with the following offer. I am here to begin a dialogue between Congress and those agencies with core STH functions, the goal being to formulate, articulate, and then implement policies that address the new international environment that I have referred to previously. It is time to recognize the significant ways that STH issues are now part of our national security concerns, and, as such, should be an essential component of our foreign policy priorities."

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

Back to FYI Home