- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2001

The deterioration of math and science education has contributed to a "crisis" in national security that must be addressed immediately to protect the nation in a post-Cold War era fraught with "distinctly new dangers," a report by the U.S. Commission on National Security concludes.

"I think if we don't invest in improvements in the levels of achievement in math and science education, then it is a greater threat to the national security … than any conventional war," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who serves on the 14-member Hart-Rudman Commission.

The commission, convened in 1997, released the third phase of its three-year study yesterday, warning that the nation must overhaul its national security strategy with renewed emphasis on reforms in education, intelligence, space and military personnel as well as changes in the role of Congress in security affairs.

"America faces extraordinary new dangers for which we are not prepared," the report said. "If the structures and processes of the U.S. government stand still amid a world of change, the United States will lose its capacity to shape history and will instead by shaped by it."

Led by former Sens. Gary Hart of Colorado and Warren Rudman of New Hampshire, the commission urged President Bush to consider adopting their suggestions, but they acknowledged the reforms were broad and comprehensive, requiring sweeping changes.

"We have tried to set out the solutions we thought were best, not necessarily politically feasible," Mr. Rudman said.

The report, funded by Congress, painted a chilling picture of the nation's readiness to respond to a direct attack with weapons of mass destruction. It warned of the threat of international terrorism, noting that a strike on U.S. soil is likely in the next 25 years.

"We decided that the most serious problem this nation faces isn't China or North Korea. It's right here at home," said retired Gen. Charles Boyd, the study's executive director.

The report called for the creation of a National Homeland Security Agency and for major alterations in the Defense and State departments.

The State Department is "a crippled institution, starved for resources by Congress because of its inadequacies," the report said.

The panel also sought a broader role for the National Guard, which would be responsible for a "homeland security mission."

The commission, the first to comprehensively review national security since 1947, included Leslie H. Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger, and retired Adm. Harry D. Train II. It concluded that the executive branch of government had made no major institutional changes since the Cold War.

In education, the commissioners recommended a National Security Science and Technology Education Act to help produce a vital crop of scientists and engineers as well as qualified science and math teachers. They called for a redoubling of the federal research and development budget by 2010 and creating "a more competitive environment" for distributing research funds.

The panel named education reform as its No. 2 priority behind investment innovations. The nation, the report said, lacks enough qualified workers to fill technology-related jobs crucial for national security. There is also a dearth of qualified classroom teachers to give students the critical foundations they need in math and science to move on to higher education.

"The capacity of America's education system to create a 21st-century work force second to none is a national security issue of the first order," the study found. "As things stand, the country is forfeiting that capacity."

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