Today, House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R- NY) addressed
the Presidents of the State University of New York (SUNY). In Boehlert's
speech on the impact of terrorism on R&D, he concluded, "So,
the events of September 11th have forced us to alter our agenda in ways
large and small. But fundamentally, our nation's R&D and education
needs remain pretty much what they were before the attacks, and, for
now, at least, the resources available to meet those needs remain about
the same, as well." Selections from Chairman Boehlert's speech
". . . universities and colleges are inherently implicated in
our response to September 11th. For while we say that the world changed
on September 11th; it's really our knowledge of the world, our sense
of the world, not the world itself, that changed on that fateful day."
". . . academia, as a leading generator, analyzer, repository
and purveyor of human knowledge and insight, will necessarily have
an impact on whether and how our world actually changes. I hope and
expect that academia, in general, and the SUNY system, in particular,
are up to that task, which may require some new undertakings, but
mostly will simply require more intensive and better focused attention
on existing efforts and greater engagement with the rest of American
"I don't believe, for instance, that last month's attacks signal
a need for any fundamental change in the structure or nature of our
academic institutions. I'm thinking here, particularly, of the openness
of our colleges and universities - openness to both ideas and people."
"Obviously, the United States has to screen all visa applicants
more thoroughly and needs to keep better track of those who enter
our country, and, in particular, to crack down on those with expired
visas. But we must not imperil the openness of our universities, which
are magnets for students around the world, many of whom choose to
settle in the United States. Foreign students who remain here are
absolutely critical elements of our science and technology workforce,
and those who return home often increase the goodwill toward the U.S.
in their home countries.
"Some people may view limiting visas as 'erring on the side
of caution,' but it's just as easy to argue that 'caution' argues
for openness, given how much we rely on students who come here from
"So, fundamental changes in the nature of academia are probably
unwarranted, but what about changes in the research and development
agenda? Do we need to redirect government or academic R&D in the
wake of the attacks?
"Along with the scientific community, the House Science Committee,
which I chair, has just begun to analyze that question. I know that
the National Academy of Sciences and numerous other entities in Washington
and around the country are also looking at how the scientific community
should respond to the attacks, and we should be careful about rushing
"But my basic view is that, while there are a few areas that
need additional focus, the general thrust of R&D need not change.
Let me focus, first, though, on the areas in which research has probably
been inadequate. "First among these appears to be computer security.
. . .our general vulnerability to terrorism should make us look again
at our ability to protect the computer systems on which we all increasingly
"The federal government must also put additional resources into
improving the technical capabilities of our law enforcement agencies.
We need research that will enable us to gather better intelligence
to foil terrorist plots and other crimes before they are implemented."
"There are probably some narrower areas of research that need
more attention, as well. For example, the Science Committee is working
on a bill to authorize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to
fund research to assess and improve the security of drinking water
"Unlike the other areas I've discussed, none of this is likely
to be particularly fundamental or basic research, but it's still vitally
important, and universities will no doubt have a role to play in it.
"Other research projects may emerge as we scrutinize what happened
in New York and Washington. We plan to hold a hearing later in October
to examine what research is needed to better protect our physical
infrastructure - buildings, power plants, the electric grid, etc.
My staff and I are working with Governor Ridge and his Homeland Security
Team on this. "In addition, the focus of some of our nation's
research may shift. Existing research on identification techniques
- especially biometrics: the use of iris patterns or heartbeat patterns
or other aspects of the human body to ensure that people are not using
false identities - must get a higher priority.
"Research in the social sciences and the humanities, including
research on the causes of terrorism and the reaction to it, will certainly
be more relevant than ever. Research that would help us prevent or
respond to chemical, biological or nuclear attacks by terrorists will
have renewed significance."
"The good news is that federal R&D spending was doing pretty
well in the Congressional appropriations process before September
11th, and that is unlikely to change as the process winds up - hopefully
by the end of this month. After all, fiscal 2002 begins today, and
we have yet to complete action on a single spending bill . . . understandable
in view of the events. September is usually the month for dotting
I's and crossing T's in the appropriations process.
"I am pleased that President Bush named Jack Marburger his new
Science Advisor. With his experiences with Brookhaven National Laboratories
and SUNY Stony Brook, he is going to make an invaluable addition to
the team and help us make the case for federal R & D science programs
into the future.
"Now that the White House and Congressional leaders have tentatively
agreed to raise overall federal spending for 2002, I expect NSF to
end up with a sizable spending increase for the new fiscal year. More
resources will be devoted for R & D, as the Director of the Office
of Management and Budget, Mitch Daniels, has agreed."
"None of the R&D we conduct on security or anything else
will matter, in the long-run, unless it helps train students in new
fields. None of our R&D goals will be met, in the long-run, unless
we do a better job of preparing teachers and producing more capable
students in science and math.
"So allow me to close by just focusing for a moment or two on
education the academic issue closest to my heart. Recent events have
done nothing to deter the President and the Congress from carrying
out their commitment to improve American education, particularly pre-college
education in all fields. President Bush has made education one of
his signature issues. Ongoing negotiations are continuing to settle
on increased funding levels for education programs and to enact a
major rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Congress
should be able to pass that legislation by the end of October, and
that should gradually result in better prepared students arriving
on your campuses.
"Progress is also being made on H.R. 1858, a bill targeted specifically
at improving pre-college science and math education. That bill would
create new NSF programs to encourage institutions of higher education
and businesses to devote more of their energy and resources to improving
pre- college science and math education. The bill would also create
new federal scholarships to encourage top science, math and engineering
majors to become science and math teachers."
"So, the events of September 11th have forced us to alter our
agenda in ways large and small. But fundamentally, our nation's R&D
and education needs remain pretty much what they were before the attacks,
and, for now, at least, the resources available to meet those needs
remain about the same, as well.
"What we need to do now is to draw on, and to shore up, the
strengths of our major institutions, such as SUNY - not just to prevent
future attacks, but to ensure that our nation remains a beacon of
freedom and openness and opportunity and innovation and prosperity.
Those traits may make our nation a more appealing target for terrorists,
but they're also what make it worth defending."