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Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism
stances change. In that sense this is not an enduring plan for technical work, but rather a starting point from which the nation can create defenses-in-depth against the new threat. For that reason it is especially important that strengthening the national effort in long-term research that can create new solutions should be a cornerstone of the strategy for countering terrorism.
TOP-PRIORITY TECHNICAL RECOMMENDATIONS
Key elements or infrastructures of society can be means of attack, targets, and means of response. While some systems and technologies can be classified roughly in one or another of these categories (i.e., nuclear weapons are primarily means of attack; energy systems are primarily targets), most systems and technologies can fit into multiple categories. For example, air transportation is both a target and a means of attack, and information and telecommunications systems are both targets and means of response. The Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism considered nine areas, each of which is discussed in a separate chapter. The areas are nuclear and radiological threats, human and agricultural health systems, toxic chemicals and explosive materials, information technology, energy systems, transportation systems, cities and fixed infrastructure, the response of people to terrorism, and complex and interdependent systems.
The chapters on these nine areas each contain a number of recommendations, all describing what the committee believes are critical ways to make the nation safer from terrorism. The actions and research opportunities described in the chapters cover a wide assortment of approaches, fields, and systems; they range from immediate applications of existing technology to development and deployment efforts to long-term basic research programs. Based on an understanding of the difficulty of launching particular kinds of attacks and the feasibility of limiting the damage of such attacks and of recovering from them, the committee was able to prioritize within each area in order to determine the topics covered below in this executive summary, which describes the committee’s top-priority concepts and actions in each area.2 To definitively determine the most important actions within and across all nine areas would require knowledge of the relative likelihood of threats and information about the intent and capability of terrorists. However, based on information in prior major studies and commission reports about the current threat, the committee provides a short list of important technical initiatives that span the areas (see Box ES.1). This list includes seven ways to
The bold-faced sentences in this executive summary are not necessarily reproductions of the recommendations in the succeeding chapters but instead are meant to emphasize important conclusions and high-priority actions. Several recommendations from different parts of a chapter may be combined or paraphrased here to communicate an important overall point clearly and briefly; the expanded discussions in the chapters provide a more comprehensive picture.