the breadth of experience or institutional capacity to establish an effective governance structure for the forensic science enterprise.

There was also a strong consensus in the committee that no existing or new division or unit within DOJ would be an appropriate location for a new entity governing the forensic science community. DOJ’s principal mission is to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law. Agencies within DOJ operate pursuant to this mission. The FBI, for example, is the investigative arm of DOJ and its principal missions are to produce and use intelligence to protect the Nation from threats and to bring to justice those who violate the law. The work of these law enforcement units is critically important to the Nation, but the scope of the work done by DOJ units is much narrower than the promise of a strong forensic science community. Forensic science serves more than just law enforcement; and when it does serve law enforcement, it must be equally available to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and defendants in the criminal justice system. The entity that is established to govern the forensic science community cannot be principally beholden to law enforcement. The potential for conflicts of interest between the needs of law enforcement and the broader needs of forensic science are too great. In addition, the committee determined that the research funding strategies of DOJ have not adequately served the broad needs of the forensic science community. This is understandable, but not acceptable when the issue is whether an agency is best suited to support and oversee the Nation’s forensic science community. In sum, the committee concluded that advancing science in the forensic science enterprise is not likely to be achieved within the confines of DOJ. Moreover, DHS is too focused on national security to embed a new entity within it.

The committee thus concluded that no existing agency has the capacity or appropriate mission to take on the roles and responsibilities needed to govern and improve the forensic science community. The tasks assigned to it require that it be unfettered and objective and as free from bias as possible. What is needed is a new, strong, and independent entity with no ties to the past and with the authority and resources to implement a fresh agenda designed to address the many problems found by the committee and discussed in the remainder of this report.

The proposed entity must meet the following minimum criteria:

  • It must have a culture that is strongly rooted in science, with strong ties to the national research and teaching communities, including federal laboratories.

  • It must have strong ties to state and local forensic entities, as well as to the professional organizations within the forensic science community.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement