• Rapid deployment and employment of forces globally against responsive threats.

  • Global effects that can be delivered rapidly, anywhere.

The DSB panel recommended that DOD focus its investment in these nine areas either because they will optimize the payoff or because they are associated with high-risk threats.

Although released in 2002, the DSB report was completed only months before the tragic events of September 11, 2001. While the central assessments of the DSB remain valid, there is no doubt that after those events there was a dramatic refocusing of the nation’s attention to national security and, most importantly, homeland security. September 11 caused many new assessments to be undertaken, one of which was a study by the National Research Council of the contributions science and technology might make to counterterrorism.2

The aim of the study was to help the federal government—and, more specifically, the Executive Office of the President—to enlist the nation’s and the world’s scientific and technical community in a timely response to the threat of catastrophic terrorism. The terms of reference for the study called for the preparation of (1) a carefully delineated framework for the application of science and technology for countering terrorism, (2) the preparation of research agendas in nine key areas,3 and (3) the examination of a series of crosscutting issues. Overall, the authoring committee aimed to identify scientific and technological means by which the nation might reduce its vulnerabilities to catastrophic terrorist acts and mitigate the consequences of such acts when they occur.

The eight panels of preeminent scientists, engineers, and physicians identified 14 “most important technical initiatives”:

  • Immediate applications of existing technologies

    • Develop and utilize robust systems for protection, control, and accounting of nuclear weapons and special nuclear materials at their sources.

    • Ensure production and distribution of known treatments and preventatives for pathogens.


Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism, Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press (2002).


Biological sciences; chemical sciences; nuclear and radiological sciences; information technology and telecommunications; transportation; energy facilities; cities and fixed infrastructure; behavioral, social, and institutional issues; and systems analysis and systems engineering.

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