- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

The nation should harness its scientific and technological capabilities to thwart terrorist threats, according to a new report by the National Academy of Sciences for a joint congressional panel.
The report concludes that the federal government can take immediate steps to combat terrorism, including developing systems to protect nuclear weapons and material, and increasing vaccine production.
The 24 academics and scientists who wrote the report also recommended that the federal government create a homeland security institute to help set priorities for homeland security. The institute could also analyze the vulnerability and effectiveness of approaches to combating terrorism.
Authors of the report will discuss its details today at a joint hearing of the House Science Committee and Senate Commerce Committee's science, technology and space subcommittee.
"I think it's important to emphasize that there are things that can be done quickly to improve security," said Richard D. Klausner, executive director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report.
The National Academy said the federal government could reduce the risk from terrorist strikes by:
Developing a system to protect, control and account for nuclear weapons and nuclear materials where they are stored.
Ensuring production and distribution of treatments for and ways to prevent the spreading of pathogens.
Designing security systems for all transportation modes, particularly for methods using large shipping containers and for vehicles carrying large quantities of toxic and flammable materials.
Protect energy-distribution services by improving security.
Improve air filtration in ventilation systems;
Deploy better technology so local police, firefighters and emergency personnel have improved communication.
The report also concluded there is an urgent need to improve research efforts to develop more treatments for pathogens, find better ways to guard against Internet attacks and improve engineering techniques to build blast-resistant and fire-resistant facilities.
"The report could not be more timely. We're going to make it abundantly clear that research and development has to be part of any counterterrorism strategy," said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, New York Republican and chairman of the House Science Committee.
An independent homeland security institute should be established to help the government make crucial technical decisions and devise technical strategies for combating terrorism, the authors of the report concluded.
The researchers who wrote the report warned that the federal government should not rely too heavily on science and technology to protect the nation from terrorism.
"Diplomacy, international relations, military actions, intelligence gathering and other instruments of national policy well beyond the scope of this study all have critical roles to play," they wrote.
But the group also said recommendations in the report will not only make the nation safer from terrorist attacks, but also help the country guard against natural disasters, infectious diseases, hackers disrupting the Internet and failures in electric power distribution.
The group also warned that a decline in the number of students studying science and engineering could jeopardize efforts to bolster the nation's defenses.
Mr. Klausner and Lewis M. Branscomb, professor emeritus at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, will testify at the joint hearing the first between the two panels.
The academy began its study in December to identify likely terrorist threats and ways science could contribute to short- and long-term efforts to boost security.

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