of scientific research, training, technology, and databases associated with DNA analysis have resulted from substantial and steady federal support for both academic research and programs employing techniques for DNA analysis. Similar support must be given to all credible forensic science disciplines if they are to achieve the degrees of reliability needed to serve the goals of justice. With more and better educational programs, accredited laboratories, certified forensic practitioners, sound operational principles and procedures, and serious research to establish the limits and measures of performance in each discipline, forensic science experts will be better able to analyze evidence and coherently report their findings in the courts. The current situation, however, is seriously wanting, both because of the limitations of the judicial system and because of the many problems faced by the forensic science community.
Most forensic science methods, programs, and evidence are within the regulatory province of state and local law enforcement entities or are covered by statutes and rules governing state judicial proceedings. Thus, in assessing the strengths, weaknesses, and future needs of forensic disciplines, and in making recommendations for improving the use of forensic technologies and techniques, the committee remained mindful of the fact that Congress cannot directly fix all of the deficiencies in the forensic science community. Under our federal system of government, Congress does not have free reign to amend state criminal codes, rules of evidence, and statutes governing civil actions; nor may it easily and directly regulate local law enforcement practices, state and local medical examiner units, or state policies covering the accreditation of crime laboratories and the certification of forensic practitioners.
Congress’ authority to act is significant, however. Forensic science programs in federal government entities—whether within DOJ, DHS, DOD, or the Department of Commerce (DOC)—are funded by congressional appropriations. If these programs are required to operate pursuant to the highest standards, they will provide an example for the states. More importantly, Congress can promote “best practices” and strong educational, certification, accreditation, ethics, and oversight programs in the states by offering funds that are contingent on meeting appropriate standards of practice. There is every reason to believe that offers of federal funds with “strings attached” can effect significant change in the forensic science com-