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Partnering Against Terrorism: Summary of a Workshop
He noted that Congressman Boehlert came from the state that had borne the brunt of the “misery and devastation wrought by the attacks on September 11,” and had become a forceful and effective advocate for policies that view the support of science and engineering research and their application as “investments in a better future.” He said that Mr. Boehlert had been at the forefront of efforts to leverage the nation’s science and technology resources in the fight against terrorism. Leveraging through partnerships and coordination, he said, will be key to how effectively we marshal our technological capabilities to counter the asymmetric threats of terrorism, a threat he called “unprecedented in terms of its dimensions and complexities.”
As an example, he described the physical infrastructure at potential risk—the nation’s collection of utilities, bridges, ports, water systems, airports, hospitals, plants, and factories, some 85 percent of which is privately owned. He pointed as well to our immense information infrastructure and its multitude of vulnerabilities, and to levels of emergency preparedness in 56 states, territories, and possessions, more than 3,000 counties, and tens of thousands of communities where 285 million citizens live. In all, he said, this presented a “systems problem of the highest order.” The number of technical issues and scientific questions aside, he said, we face a gigantic organizational and operational challenge that can best be faced collaboratively.
NIST and Homeland Security
He said that NIST was supporting some 120 projects that address issues of homeland security, many of them characterized by collaboration. Some 75 of those projects, which had begun before 9/11, had been redirected. In the area of radiation standards, for example, NIST had already been developing standards, and had redirected its work to include development of standards for beta radiation. For DNA, the institute had been developing standards for analysis, and it shifted that work to the study of damaged DNA in order to assist in the identification of the victims of the World Trade Center collapse. In addition, NIST’s Advanced Technology Project (ATP) supported companies that were bringing to life “embryonic technologies” through cost-sharing awards. Since 1992, ATP had obligated an estimated $270 million to companies and joint ventures pursuing promising commercial technologies that could be enlisted in the fight against terrorism. That partnership, he said, underscored the dual nature of many of the technologies that were now needed.
Many partners outside NIST were contributing to the homeland security work underway in NIST laboratories, with an emphasis on responding to measurement and standards-related needs. He cited three such needs:
(1) NIST was starting its investigation of the structural failure and progressive collapse of the World Trade Center, bringing together technical experts from industry, academia, and other laboratories and interacting regularly with the pro-