Partnerships need to draw on the combined expertise of government, business, academic institutions, and citizens, she noted, since each member of this partnership brings unique information and abilities for optimizing homeland defense decision making. Finally Dr. Altman identified a need to implement technologies and policies that ultimately enhance the government’s ability to partner and achieve its missions. “I think technology is key to cementing the partnership,” she said. “We believe that it is the underpinning of open, standards-based architecture, allowing communication between various systems.”
Integration will be a key challenge for the new Department of Homeland Security, whose six primary missions are to be accomplished by twenty-two constituent organizations. Jim Turner of the House Science Committee related the cautionary tale of the Department of Energy, which was created in 1977 in response to the Arab oil boycott. There was, he said, an “unnecessary amount of diversity in the agency,” which “threw a lot of disparate problems together.” As a result, “two things happened with DOE: From day one, the top management couldn’t think about R&D.” and second, “the DOE did not achieve the objective of weaning America from dependence on foreign oil.”
Mr. Turner noted, however, that there are significant differences today, which are cause for optimism for the future of DHS missions. The nation has had over 25 years of experience with successful partnerships, he said, including Sematech, ATP, and SBIR, and the benefit of review and analysis of their best practices. Research on public-private partnerships led by the National Academies, he concluded, will help us understand how partnerships work, and these lessons can contribute to the nation’s success in the war on terrorism.
This war on terrorism presents unique challenges. The strength of the United States in science and technology must be used to make the nation less vulnerable to future terrorist attacks and to reduce the risk and potential impact of such attacks. Speed is important. We need solutions to these vulnerabilities as soon as we can find them. This acceleration in the development of new technologies and new anti-terrorist products can best be done through partnerships between industry, government, and universities. The partnerships described here are much more effective than the “Silo” approaches to finding solutions. And they are also likely to prove to be much faster in mobilizing the strengths of the private sector to meet national needs.