AAAS urges one-stop accountability for anti-terrorism research

July 08, 2002

JULY 8, 2002--The world's largest general scientific organization today urged U.S. policymakers to appoint a single official--such as an undersecretary--to coordinate all counterterrorism research and development (R&D).

By ensuring one-stop accountability for counterterrorism research, such an appointment would help speed advances planned by the proposed Department of Homeland Security, and coordinate scientific investigations across all relevant agencies, said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). By comparison, under the Administration's current proposal, R&D officers would report to four undersecretaries, with no overall coordination.

Fighting terrorism "calls for a well-orchestrated and coordinated endeavor among the 26 agencies that currently contribute to our nation's research and development enterprise," Leshner wrote, in a July 8 letter to Rep. Richard K. Armey (R-Texas), Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Leshner's letter to Armey was also sent to Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-New York) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California), Minority Whip for the U.S. House of Representatives. To view the letter, please click here.

This week, the House Science Committee is expected to begin marking up a bill to establish lines of authority and funding coordination for R&D in the proposed Department of Homeland Security.
AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, with over 130,000 individual members and 272 affiliated societies, representing 10 million individuals in all fields of science and engineering. Founded in 1848, AAAS is also the publisher of the journal, Science, and has long been a leader in promoting science to meet national goals. Most recently, Congressional testimony by Leshner advised against a "taking turns" approach to federal R&D funding, and called for greater balance in the national scientific budget. "Our continued national security and improving quality of life depend on a uniformly healthy and rapidly growing science and technology enterprise," Leshner told a Senate subcommittee on May 22. (See

AAAS also recently released a report, Science and Technology in a Vulnerable World, concluding that the nation is ill-prepared for a terrorist assault on its information systems, and lacks the public health structure necessary to address a major bioterrorist attack. (See

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