Summary Comments by Lewis Branscomb

  1. Social science and humanities. The research agenda for the future will need to give more emphasis to both humanities and social scientists, as understanding the roots of terrorism and finding ways to make the world a more peaceful, free and economically healthy place is recognized as the only permanent answer to the threat of catastrophic terrorism. This will confront universities with a funding problem, since few of the federal science support agencies are prepared to invest in these areas. It also suggests that significant reform of public education is needed as well.
  2. Reduce the burden on politics. The historic discontinuities described by Gary Hart place stress on the ability of politics to adjust to the new realities. Issues like balancing freedom of inquiry and publication against constraints to limit diffusion of information to terrorists will be difficult for the political community to handle rationally. The fact that the Academies study had to be financed by the Academies' own funds - and might well have faced questions about its publication had a government agency sponsored it - suggests that for some period of time more reliance will have to be placed on private initiative and resources. Thus university research administrations need to step up to the "dangerous research" problem and not leave it to government to manage.
  3. Create a sustainable effort. As Hart noted, we face a step function in history, not a temporary change likely to return to the world as we knew it. Vulnerability to catastrophic terrorism will continue indefinitely, whether or not terrorists are captured or deterred. Thus a serious challenge is the sustainability of societies investments in countering terrorism by making society less vulnerable. This emphasizes the wisdom of Prof. Skolnikoff's warning not to get carried away with unrealistic efforts to harden America and tells us that the dual use strategy to ensure that homeland security investments also contribute to the quality of life of civic society is essential. This also applies to the strategy for motivating the private sector to address the key vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure.
  4. Don't wait for Washington. Most states are not. There are several reasons for approaching the S&T issues in homeland security from the "bottom up." First, it is much easier to arrange collaboration among sectors - government, industry, universities and independent laboratories - at the local level rather than the federal level. Second, if all communities, counties, and states address the key vulnerabilities in their area, terrorists will have more difficulty assessing the feasibility of attacks than they might if the federal government had a known and fixed list of priorities for protection. Third, the emergency operations control, the first responders, and the targets are essentially local - indeed at the level of counties and municipalities. Making sure that the technologies developed for their use are appropriate, acceptable, and effective is enhanced if the work is undertaken in collaboration with institutions at that level.