State Department to Take Action to Enhance S&T Capability

Share This

Publication date: 
23 May 2000

"In a world being transformed by technology, good science is vital to good diplomacy." --- Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Last week, the Department of State acknowledged its need for greater science and technology expertise, and issued a plan for remedying the situation. On May 15, the Department released its response to last October's National Research Council (NRC) report, "The Pervasive Role of Science, Technology, and Health in Foreign Policy - Imperatives for the Department of State" (see FYI #148, 1999).

In an accompanying policy statement, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright noted that the Department used the NRC report "as a guide in our efforts." The Department's response in almost all cases implements the recommendations made by the NRC.

"[T]oday, there can be no question about the integral role science and technology (S&T) must play in our diplomacy," Albright said in her statement. "Whether the issue is countering weapons of mass destruction, dealing with infectious diseases, or expanding the global economy while protecting the global environment, if we are to get our international strategies right we must get our science right."

Albright's "Policy Statement on Science and Technology and Diplomacy" continues, "To succeed, we must make changes affecting our organizational structure, our personnel, and our relationship with the science community." Many of the key changes are spelled out in the remainder of the 2-page statement, most of which is quoted below:

"STRUCTURE: First, we will strengthen our science leadership and management structure. Shortly, I shall appoint a Science and Technology Adviser who will have direct access to me and other senior Department officials and who will be located within the Under Secretariat for Global Affairs. The Adviser will lead a Department-wide effort to ensure that science, technology and health issues are properly integrated into our foreign policy. The Adviser will also serve as the Department's principal liaison with the national and international scientific community.

"Other structural changes in the Department will also reflect and support the enhanced role of science and technology. By the end of April, I will re-establish a Science Directorate within the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES). Under the Leadership of the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, this Directorate will bring together three separate OES offices currently focused on science, technology and health issues.

"Further, all regional and policy bureaus in the Department will designate a Deputy Assistant Secretary-level person to be responsible for S&T-based issues. These bureau representatives - along with the Under Secretary for Global Affairs, the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, the Science Adviser to the Bureau of Arms Control, the Chair of the Arms Control and Nonproliferation Advisory Board, and the Science and Technology Adviser - together will form a standing science policy group.

"PERSONNEL: The Department's effectiveness on any issue is only as good as its people and the quality of information available to them. I want to ensure that we have the right people in the right places with the right training, expertise and information to provide strong leadership on science-related issues. The Director General and other senior officials are currently reviewing the Department's recruitment, training, assignment and promotion policies to broaden and deepen our in-house science and technology expertise. The Science and Technology Adviser will work closely with the Director General in this effort.

"It should be a priority of the Department to ensure that, at a minimum, all foreign service and civil service personnel, at home and abroad, have a basic understanding of science-related issues. They should also know whether and when science can inform our policy, where to go for this expertise, and how to make sure it is incorporated in the formulation and execution of our policies.

"The Department has begun a survey to identify those overseas posts - such as New Delhi - where science, technology and health issues are most vital to the success of our bilateral or regional agenda. Based on those results, we will examine our current science positions to determine whether new positions are needed, assess the upgrading of existing positions, and identify those overseas locations where our interests would especially benefit by assigning scientists to key positions. I expect this work to be completed by this September.

"PARTNERSHIP: We must do more than marshal our resources effectively; we must marshal help from other places. The Department will establish an active, long-term partnership with the science, engineering and technology community - in academia and the private sector as well as in government. That means more and better dialogue on policy issues; collaboration in training our people; and temporary assignments in the Department and overseas.

"To help us get the science right, we will continue the program of policy roundtables on key issues, such as those we have already held on biotech agriculture and carbon sinks. And to help us work faster and smarter, we are also striving to enhance our access to the latest advances in information technology.

"Strengthening the Department's S&T capabilities will be a long- term effort requiring new fiscal and human resources. This will require the support of Congress as well as the science community.... [I]t is a goal that should unite us all.

"If America is to continue to lead in the new century, then we must lead the way in integrating science in our diplomacy. So we will move forward aggressively. As I told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February [see FYI #28], while it will take time and money to realize this vision, we must and will begin now."

The 15-page report, entitled "Science and Foreign Policy: The Role of the Department of State," and associated documents can be accessed on the State Department web site through the Secretary's memorandum on S&T to State Department employees, at

Explore FYI topics: