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New AAAS Security Center Holds First Congressional Briefing
The AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy, founded this year to build new connections between scientists, research institutions and federal policy-makers, held its first briefing on 13 December for a select audience of congressional staffers in Washington D.C.
The 90-minute briefing was organized at the request of the office of Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, and featured two top scholars on the science and potential security applications of lasers.
"This is an important milestone," said Norman Neureiter, the accomplished scientist, diplomat and international business executive who became director of the new center in May. "We look on this as the first of many briefings we expect to do over the coming year. Our objective is to try to be a reliable '1-800-SCIENCE,' providing objective scientific information, quickly, in response to any technical question from any member of Congress or their staff people."
The Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy has been conceived as a way to encourage exchanges between policymakers who need critical, reliable informationoften on short noticeand the community of scientists and engineers who have such expertise.
The Center is funded by a three-year, $2.25-million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It is seen as a linchpin in a six-year, $50-million effort by the foundation to enhance the prospects for international peace and security. The foundation is funding a select group of security-related research programs and providing grants to universities to create interdisciplinary faculty and research positions that will attract scholars, scientists and engineers to work on policy issues.
Since taking office as the center director, Neureiter has been assembling a staff and building relationships with the 15 domestic and international university centers and policy research institutions working under the MacArthur Science, Technology & Security Initiative, and with many NGOs working in the area of science and security.
The 13 December briefing featured two top experts on lasers:
- Laser physicist Laurie Fathe, the founding director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at George Mason University in Virginia, offered a crash-course in laser science. Fathe has served as a science advisor in the U.S. Congress, working in the office of Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif). She is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a past chair of its Forum on Physics and Society, where her work centers on helping scientists become involved in the legislative process.
- James Spicer, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, spoke on the military and security uses of lasers. He discussed rangefinders, directed energy weapons such as airborne lasers, and the use of lasers for detecting chemical and biological weapons and mines. Spicer is the director of the Center for Materials Sensing and Detection at Johns Hopkins, and the principal investigator leading a team from Johns Hopkins, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Stanford and SRI International on a program for real-time, explosive-specific chemical sensors sponsored by the Army Research Office.
"It can be very valuable for members of Congress and congressional staff to learn what new science and technology is under development," said Eric Gordon, a legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) "That helps us to understand what's out there relevant to policy issueswe know the range of options."
Before joining AAAS, Neureiter had served a three-year term as science advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State, first under Madeleine Albright in the administration of President Bill Clinton, then under Colin Powell in the administration of President George W. Bush.
After a successful early career as a research chemist in the oil industry, Neureiter rose through the ranks of the U.S. Foreign Service in the 1960s to become the first U.S. science attaché in Eastern Europe. From 1969 to 1973, he served as the international affairs assistant in President Richard Nixon's Office of Science and Technology, helping craft agreements with the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. After serving for 23 years with Texas Instruments, he retired in 1996 as a vice president of TI Asia.
Edward W. Lempinen
21 December 2004