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FYI Number 6: January 17, 2002

Impact of War on FY 2003 S&T Budget

The Bush Administration will send its FY 2003 budget request to Congress on February 4. This request is being prepared during a period of war and recession, and against a backdrop of an estimated $40 billion federal budget deficit for the first quarter of FY 2002. There are few firm indications about what the administration's S&T request will be for FY 2003.

Indications of how the war will affect the FY 2003 request were provided last month in a speech given by OSTP Director John Marburger at an AAAS symposium entitled, "The War on Terrorism: What Does it Mean for Science?" Excerpts from his speech follow:

"First, this administration is determined not to let terrorism deflect America from its trajectory of world leadership in science. . . . Having produced the means for great strides in science, and in accompanying technologies for improved health care, economic competitiveness, and quality of life, it would be foolish to turn aside now from the course of discovery while we engage the monster of terrorism -- an evil force that denies the benefits of progress and the search for truth. Thus I expect that science in America and the world will forge ahead relatively unaffected by the war against terrorism. I expect the President's prior commitment to increase funding for health related research to be realized. I expect the tremendous momentum in the information sciences to roll forward. I expect the technologies of measurement and analysis -- atomic scale microscopy and manipulation, light sources, probes, detectors and analyzers -- to continue to win new ground on the frontiers of complexity as well as of scale. Science has its own intrinsic imperative and this nation will continue to pursue it."

"[S]ignificant readiness of homeland technology is also apparent, though not yet fully mobilized. We are not starting 'from scratch' in the technology of homeland defense. We have much relevant technology, and the challenge is to deploy it effectively.

"I am making these points to cool somewhat a fever that I fear is rising in the scientific community -- a notion that science may be diverted in a massive way as it was in World War II, the course of discovery interrupted, the quality of intellectual life distorted and impaired. Or on the other hand that a great windfall for science is at hand, at least for some of us, because of the need for new research bent to the exigencies of new forms of warfare.

"Science does indeed have much to offer in this war, and for three months in my new capacity as Presidential Science Advisor, I have been urging America's science and engineering organizations to respond to the President's call. And I have been immensely impressed and gratified by the response. . . ."

"Prior to the war on terrorism, the modern era of science had matured, and a wealth of knowledge and technique now lies at hand. In nearly every area where technology can be applied to homeland defense, the basic knowledge exists, and the need is for engineering to turn known phenomena into devices, and to embed the devices into practical systems. The single greatest exception to this rule is in the response to bioterrorism, where additional research is needed on the mechanisms of diseases likely to be exploited by terrorists.

"Some have spoken of the need for a 'Manhattan Project' to satisfy the needs of homeland security. The analogy is wrong-headed. Cleverness is needed less now than a national will to use what we have to strengthen the infrastructure of our daily lives, to bolster public health systems, to equip properly our first responders, to use more effectively the information technology, the detection technology, the biotechnology that we already possess to render the way we live less vulnerable to what the military scholars call 'asymmetric threats.' We need to plan, and to carry out our plans. And that is one of the functions of the Office of Homeland Security."

"Science and engineering have critical roles to play in the war on terrorism. We need improved tools with which to prevent, detect, protect, and treat victims of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and conventional terrorist attacks. Additionally, we will need new and improved tools to recover facilities from those same types of attacks, should they ever occur. Many cases call for a 'systems approach,' rather than simply perfection of a single device." [Marburger cited mail security, airline security, and building design and construction as examples.]

"Let me turn now to the more delicate subject of how the war on terrorism, and the fear of terrorism, may impact the conduct of science. . . . Security measures implemented without adequate forethought can backfire if they do not significantly improve security and have a negative impact on science and agency missions. . . . It is important that international students continue to come to the U.S. to study and contribute to our science and technology enterprise. They are a major factor in our nation's world scientific leadership. They also learn to appreciate the advantages of our educational system and acquire skills that will enable them to contribute quality of life in their own countries. But we do need better ways of identifying the few that come to enhance their effectiveness as terrorists. . . . Our nation today is a science superpower. The scope of our scientific activity, both basic and applied, is breathtaking and unmatched. We are not, however, a science monopoly, and we have much to learn from colleagues elsewhere in the world. Science thrives on open discourse. Measures that inhibit discourse will impede progress. We cannot limit scientific interactions with other nations without paying a scientific price.

"During my two months in office I have been impressed by the importance that the President and his Senior Staff place on science and technology. I see this in the questions they ask and in their receptivity to advice offered. The President himself has undertaken to learn technical detail on important issues. This is not to say that science dominates decision-making. Science tells what can be done, not what should be done. But at the highest levels of the U.S. Government there is an acknowledged need for good science, and an appreciation for the needs of science."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095

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