immediately apply existing knowledge and technology to make the nation safer and seven areas of research and development in which it is urgent that programs be initiated or strengthened. These initiatives illustrate the types of actions recommended by the committee throughout this report.3

General Principles and Strategies for How Science and Technology Can Help Protect the Nation

In this report, the committee provides a broad range of recommendations designed to demonstrate how science and engineering can contribute to counterterrorism efforts. The suggested actions include support for all phases of countering terrorist threats—intelligence and surveillance, prevention, protection, interdiction, response and recovery, and attribution—as well as ways to improve our ability to perform analysis and invent new technologies. Different phases have varying importance in each of the nine areas examined in the report. For example, the nuclear threat must be addressed at the earliest stages, when intelligence and surveillance based on international cooperation are critical for preventing the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons by terrorists. For biological threats, the situation is reversed: An attack is relatively easy to initiate and hard to prevent, but there are many opportunities for technological intervention to mitigate the effects. In other cases, such as an attack on the electrical power system, it is possible both to make the attack more difficult and to ameliorate its effects after it has been initiated.

Despite such fundamental differences in the approaches needed for countering different classes of terrorist threats, some general principles and strategies underlie recommendations presented in all of the areas:

  • Identify and repair the weakest links in vulnerable systems and infrastructures.

  • Use defenses-in-depth (do not rely only on perimeter defenses or firewalls).

  • Use “circuit breakers” to isolate and stabilize failing system elements.

  • Build security into basic system designs where possible.

  • Build flexibility into systems so that they can be modified to address unforeseen threats.

  • Search for technologies that reduce costs or provide ancillary benefits to civil society to ensure a sustainable effort against terrorist threats.


These important technical initiatives do not mirror individual recommendations in the executive summary or the chapters, but instead indicate actions or needs identified in several chapters or provide brief descriptions of key technology applications or research programs.

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