This chapter presents significant general findings and overarching conclusions that are presented in the previous chapters. Also, the committee responds in this chapter to the special interests of the department that were set forth in the request for this assessment of the science and technology (S&T) capabilities of the department. Then the chapter consolidates the 27 recommendations of the committee, including 9 that are of highest near-term priority.
Findings and conclusions of the assessment of the department’s S&T capabilities are as follows:
- Goals, livelihoods, and activities of many populations throughout the world are being transformed due in significant measure to:
- Advances and diffusion of S&T capabilities that open new doors for nations to respond to the aspirations of their populations for improved security conditions, greater economic opportunities, and better social conditions.
- Increased reliance of nations on S&T as a basis for economic development, but at times not giving adequate weight to side-effects of deployment of established or new technologies, including impacts that stretch across the borders of sovereign states;
- Increased information technology and transportation connectivity that enable individuals and organizations throughout the world to communicate and to have transactions more easily than ever before among themselves and with others who are nearby or at great distances; and
- Growing concerns over security and political confrontations now and in the future that could lead to deadly use of technologies with ever-increasing potency, which are becoming widely available.
- U.S.-based S&T-oriented companies, universities, and other nongovernmental organizations are playing increasingly important roles in expanding U.S. interests abroad while at the same time often influencing S&T-driven international policies and programs of the U.S. government.
- While the department’s achievements in strengthening its S&T capabilities during the past 15 years are clearly evident within many bureaus and offices of the department in Washington, progress in strengthening S&T capabilities at U.S. embassies has lagged behind, and at some posts has declined. The department needs to (a) elevate the level of preparation for foreign service officers to assume S&T responsibilities within U.S. embassies, and (b) strengthen the role of science envoys, renamed as S&T envoys, who can develop new opportunities for the embassies to promote important S&T programs of interest to the U.S. government.
- The S&T Adviser to the Secretary of State (S&T Adviser) has played a significant role in strengthening the internal S&T capabilities of the department and the department’s external linkages with S&T leaders in the United States and abroad. The S&T Adviser’s office (STAS), with a small staff, has been particularly important in (a) enlarging the number of S&T Fellows serving effectively on short-term assignments within the department, (b) underscoring the importance of innovation and economic entrepreneurship capabilities in a number of countries through public diplomacy efforts, and (c) improving internal department communications and coordination concerning the importance of S&T and readily available sources of expertise to address specific topics. However, the S&T Adviser should play a much broader role in the mainstream of foreign policy development and in the conception and promotion of major department initiatives with significant S&T content. Also, the S&T Adviser should be more active in providing advice to the leadership of the department as to implications of newly-emerging technologies and attendant opportunities for the department to maintain global leadership through effective use of the S&T assets of the country.
- The department’s diplomatic efforts are driven in large measure by immediate issues confronting the department in Washington and at U.S. embassies. A broader foresight perspective, with particular attention to S&T-related developments, could effectively complement the intense near-term focus of the department and provide the basis for addressing authoritative S&T-related predictions of future trends by many credible organizations through foreign policy initiatives.
- For many years, department officials have been committed to supporting interagency approaches in addressing issues that cut across the
responsibilities of many other departments and agencies. Also, the department has engaged a limited number of nongovernmental entities to expand the reach of U.S. organizations with experience and capabilities directly related to program interests of the government. Greater attention should now be given to adopting whole-of-society approaches in addressing broad-ranging issues, and particularly S&T issues, at both the policy and program levels.
- Opportunities for effectively utilizing U.S. S&T strengths in public diplomacy activities are much more extensive than have been recognized by the department and deserve greater emphasis in highlighting the contributions of responsible use of S&T as a driver of development and economic prosperity while at the same time as a protector of human health and the environment.
- In order for the department to reach the laudatory goals set forth in this report, a commitment by the department of a modest increase in the level of resources devoted to intensifying and expanding S&T-related efforts in selected areas is essential.
In the request for this report, the department identified the issues set forth below in bold type as being of particular interest. The committee’s views on the issues follow.
- Providing incentives for Foreign Service Officers to follow career tracks that include assignments devoted in large measure to international S&T engagement. An important incentive is the challenge of and personal rewards from carrying out on a daily basis interesting and important S&T responsibilities that are being given increased attention within many bureaus and offices of the department and the embassies. There are unique opportunities within the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), in particular, for mid-level officials to have their own portfolios of issues and to serve as lead U.S. delegates to international gatherings. Also, for the near-term, the committee recommends an additional department award presented annually for outstanding S&T-related contributions by an embassy official to achievement of foreign policy goals or program success. In addition, appropriate recognition should be given to S&T competence and achievements in performance appraisals and promotion considerations. In the longer term, professional satisfaction from serving in the midst of an ever-increasing dimension of foreign affairs should continue to grow.
- Reaping benefits from scientific exchange programs. The interagency process has greatly helped in the sharing of findings
from government-supported exchanges. However, most S&T cross-border exchanges are now carried out without direct involvement of the department. Articulation and implementation of a whole-of-society approach by the department, as advocated in this report, should help raise the stature of exchanges in general and encourage department officials to pay more attention to exchanges not addressed in the interagency process in their areas of interest and responsibility. Also, as S&T literacy continues to grow throughout the department, more department officials will be sensitive to the impacts of S&T cooperation that involves partnerships with centers of S&T prowess throughout the United States.
- Incorporating S&T principles into programs designed to foster democracy and economic advancement. The department and the U.S. government more broadly should recognize S&T professional societies and networks that command widespread international recognition as important components of civil society. As such, they can become important platforms for promoting transparency, critical review of policy-relevant assertions, and objective decision making based on available evidence. These strengths of the scientific approach, which is accepted globally as an important component of economic advancement, have the potential for similar acceptance in the building of strong civil societies. A specific recommendation concerning this issue is set forth below as a priority recommendation of the committee.
- Leveraging the science community to strengthen relations between countries and to increase the role of S&T expertise in policy decisions of future governments throughout the world. People-to-people programs supported by the department have been important components of the national effort to build bridges with countries that have been relatively closed to outsiders. S&T participants in these programs, from both the United States and cooperating countries, have played significant roles in encouraging the governments of isolated countries to give weight to S&T as a driver of economic development and an important aspect of responsible decision making. The extensive international S&T networks can also help ensure that governments appreciate the role of S&T in economic success and the importance of international cooperation to this end. This report highlights common interests in technological innovation as an example of shared interests among many countries on all continents, and the contributions of the S&T Advisers in sharing U.S. experience in this regard.
The committee’s view on the overarching goal of efforts to upgrade S&T capabilities within the department is encompassed in the subtitle of this report: Embedding a Culture of Science and Technology throughout the Department of State.
Four objectives to achieve this goal are set forth in the themes of the four substantive chapters of the report: Chapter 2: Utilizing the nation’s S&T resources more effectively in responding to the dramatic changes in the global landscape that are determining the future of societies, states, and populations. Chapter 3: Engaging more fully the widely dispersed S&T capabilities of the United States, which are embodied in both government and nongovernment organizations, in a whole-of-society approach to foreign affairs. Chapter 4: Upgrading S&T capabilities of U.S. embassies that are on the front lines of diplomacy. Chapter 5: Increasing the stature and capabilities of department officials responsible for S&T activities and providing challenging opportunities for Fellows and officials from other departments and agencies on short-term assignments within the department and at the U.S. embassies.
Twenty-seven action-oriented recommendations that will contribute to achieving these objectives are then set forth in the report. Nine of these recommendations are considered to deserve priority attention by the leadership of the department, and they are singled out for inclusion in the Summary (indicated by ***). These priority recommendations were selected to highlight near-term actions that can be prompt steps toward (a) achieving each of the four objectives, (b) engaging the leadership of the department more fully in S&T activities, (c) upgrading the status of STAS as a critical node that together with the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) adds cohesion to expanded roles of many components of the department to work together and with external partners on S&T issues, and (d) strengthening department capabilities in Washington and abroad both to promote and support S&T engagement with other countries and to draw on the nation’s broad range of S&T assets for achieving U.S. diplomatic objectives.
A Rapidly Changing World
The Secretary should continue to provide both leadership and guidance on S&T-related policies and programs for addressing priority global issues and advancing U.S. bilateral and multilateral interests.
The department should carry out S&T-oriented foresight assessments. The Policy Planning Staff should have responsibility for this foresight
effort with leadership provided by the S&T Adviser to the Secretary who would be double-hatted as a member of the Policy Planning Staff for such assessments. The Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Bureau of Energy Resources, OES, and other interested bureaus should actively participate in such assessments.
The Secretary should establish a Science and Technology Advisory Board (STAB) of independent S&T experts of noted accomplishments and deep expertise to provide insights on S&T-laden non-defense issues that are or should be related to the department’s foreign policy agenda.
While the most important factor in supporting S&T engagement should continue to be the advancement of science, engineering, and health capabilities in the United States and partner countries, the department, along with USAID, should give greater weight in determining allocation of funds for S&T engagement to the secondary impacts in the development and strengthening of civil society and good governance in partner countries.
STAS, in continuing consultations with participants in various international S&T networks, should give priority to seeking opportunities for leveraging the outreach capabilities of existing and proposed global and regional networks in addressing S&T issues of interest to the department.
A Whole-of-Society Approach in Using Science and Technology into 21st Century Diplomacy
U.S. embassies should consult with American scientists, engineers, and health specialists residing in their countries, when appropriate, regarding research, development, and other programs that are relevant to ongoing or proposed engagement activities of interest to the embassies. Also, such in-country specialists are important in identifying opportunities for initiating new programs of mutual interest. At the same time, the embassies should also be alert to possible contributions from other in-country specialists who are not affiliated with U.S. government activities.
The department, in cooperation with the Department of Commerce, the Office of the Trade Representative, and U.S. industry, should continue to encourage governments of trade partners to adopt comprehensive approaches to development and use of technologies, including protection of their own and foreign intellectual property.
The department should encourage USAID to initiate external reviews of its S&T programs every 3 to 5 years given the many overlapping goals of USAID and the department that often involve nongovernment entities. The 2006 report prepared by the National Academies titled “The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the Agency for International Development” provides a good starting point for the next review.
The leadership of the department, in concert with senior Department of Defense officials, should continue to give emphasis to the importance of collaboration between the two departments at many levels. Opportunities for joint planning, program development activities, and readiness for future contingencies should receive particular attention, perhaps in preparation of the Quadrennial Defense Review and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.
The department should ensure that U.S. delegations to meetings of international organizations include essential experts from other government departments and agencies. Other agencies that have important expertise and interest concerning the topic of a meeting usually cover the travel costs of their specialists. However, when priorities of the department and other agencies do not align, the delegations may be lacking technical expertise for addressing specific agenda items.
The S&T Adviser to the Secretary, in consultation with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, should stay abreast of the activities of S&T-oriented committees and panels established by components of the Executive Office of the President and should help ensure that the department is appropriately represented when current and future international dimensions of research and development activities are discussed.
The QDDR and other broad-ranging policy documents should underscore the importance of the department adopting a whole-of-society approach to diplomacy, which includes the capabilities and contributions of not only many government agencies but also nongovernmental entities that are deeply vested in S&T.
OES, STAS, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and other interested bureaus should jointly organize annual conferences for representatives of interested universities, professional societies, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, companies, and other private sector organizations to meet with relevant department officials in assessing past and future opportunities for partnerships and other arrangements that will enhance mutual interests in the development and carrying out of international non-defense S&T-oriented programs. The meetings should be primarily for information exchange, and they should not be construed as policy formulation meetings.
Support of Science and Technology Policies, Programs, and Outreach by U.S. Embassies
The department should maintain S&T Counselors (currently called Science Counselors) at embassies where S&T issues are particularly important components of the bilateral relationship. Only highly-qualified individuals should be placed in these S&T Counselor positions. In most cases these will be outstanding Foreign Service Officers with extensive experience in S&T-related issues and other qualifications such as language fluency, regional expertise, and excellent diplomatic acumen. Some S&T Counselors might be drawn from the department’s cadre of Civil Servants, or exceptionally qualified outsiders. The department should also (a) ensure that S&T Counselors and other officers responsible for S&T activities at all embassies receive adequate training and preparation before assuming their duties, and (b) provide support for important efforts to initiate scientific collaboration by ensuring ready access by the embassies to available financial resources that could initiate or strengthen collaboration.
To stimulate S&T awareness throughout the embassies, the department should establish a prestigious annual award for leadership by an embassy official who has made the most outstanding contribution during the year
in enhancing science, technology, and innovation-related impacts in areas of priority interest to the department.
The department should continue to encourage short-term assignments of government specialists from other agencies to serve at embassies that request the support of specialists from other agencies. However, the department, in consultation with the requesting embassies and the interested agencies, should give greater attention to the lengths of assignments that are appropriate.
The number of Science Envoys (renamed S&T Envoys) should continue to increase.
The department should establish a program that supports short-term visits to interested countries by American scientists and engineers in their early careers who have already received national recognition for their innovative S&T achievements (the Early-Career Innovators).
The department, while continuing to expand the use of new dialog mechanisms to reach large foreign audiences on U.S. values, interests, and policies (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other emerging mechanisms), should increase efforts to better understand the composition, reactions, and influence of the audiences.
OES, together with the regional bureaus, should assess whether the regional Hubs should remain in place as an important component of the department’s overseas presence or whether other approaches would be more cost-effective in addressing regional S&T issues in the years ahead.
Enhancing Organizational and Personnel Capabilities
The department should provide the S&T Adviser with organizational status equivalent to that of an Assistant Secretary.
STAS should have (a) an increase in staff positions, and (b) access to support funds.
The department should continue its efforts to increase its staff so that time available for training and professional development of both Foreign Service and Civil Service officers can increase from the current level of 5 to 7 percent of total available time (the float), with the goal of reaching as soon as possible 15 percent.
The department should (a) evaluate the adequacy of the number of AAAS fellows in its workforce and increase the number if warranted, while broadening their opportunities for career appointments; (b) encourage Presidential Management Fellows with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) backgrounds, interests in foreign affairs, and hiring preferences in competitions for civil service positions to seek permanent employment opportunities at the department; and (c) create new pathways for Jefferson Fellows to continue to respond to the department’s needs for their S&T skills after they complete their commitments of permanent assignments in Washington of one academic year.
The department should formally request a change in the Office of Personnel Management’s Civil Service Qualification Standards throughout the Foreign Affairs series that will recognize that STEM degrees are appropriate in satisfying education requirement for positions in this series.
Beginning with the recruitment of new FSOs and Civil Servants, the department should take advantage of the many opportunities to help them appreciate the integral role of S&T in the development and implementation of foreign policy and international programs of growing importance.
The Foreign Service Institute should continue its expansion of educational and training offerings through online courses—including both courses in preparation for specific assignments and broader
overview offerings for more general educational and professional advancement.
In closing, all the bits and pieces of more effective S&T underpinnings of diplomacy and of greater recognition of the value of facilitating S&T engagement between U.S. and foreign institutions should be in place if the recommendations in this report are adopted. Enhancing the S&T capabilities of the department will require some, but not many resources. The return on a modest investment will be substantial. However, greater cohesion of the organizational and policy frameworks of the department will be needed to ensure that appropriate personnel recruitment, resource allocation, and foreign policy and program adjustments take place. Important steps have been taken in this regard, and more steps based on this report may soon be on the table. But only through collaborative efforts between the department and other key elements of the U.S. S&T enterprise will the full S&T potential of the nation be reflected in foreign affairs.
In about 5 years, another independent assessment of the role of S&T in foreign affairs should be undertaken as to the progress in moving toward greater security and prosperity through pathfinding efforts based on S&T. Because international organizations are giving increased attention to documenting the role of S&T in global development and international affairs, by the time of the next report there should be a stronger basis of well-organized data on which to assess department S&T policies. In carrying out the next assessment, special attention should be given to whether the S&T Adviser has been empowered to play a more important role in providing authoritative and timely S&T counsel for the leaders of the department. Also, the diffusion of S&T literacy throughout the department, including the embassies, should be a primary concern of the assessment. Progress in both of the areas will be a good indicator as to the extent that personal S&T literacy has joined language fluency and area expertise as cornerstones of the diplomatic culture for the 21st century.
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