Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Chief Operating Officer
National Science Foundation
Approaches to Combat Terrorism Workshop
National Science Foundation
June 8, 2004
Good morning. Welcome to the National Science Foundation.
We are here today to continue fostering an investment focused
on acquiring new knowledge, advancing innovation, and making our
nation more secure. As a group, and as individuals, you represent
the potential to develop far-reaching insight in this quest, to
turn the corner on established thought, and to reach beyond our
present knowledge frontier.
We have just celebrated the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, so that
World War II is very much on our minds. Science, engineering and
technology played a central role in that war (e.g., radar and Turing's
cracking of the Nazi code, to name just two of many) and have grown
in importance in every war since.
We are currently spending a substantial fraction of our Gross
National Product on the War on Terrorism, and it is thus important
that science, engineering and technology be used in such ways as
to make our efforts as effective and efficient as possible as well
as direct research and education into new channels, producing new
technologies, better understanding of human risks and reactions,
and gaining greater insight into the interfaces of humans with
What the approaches to Combat Terrorism (ACT) investment is about
is helping the Intelligence Community harvest some of the rich
bounty of new ideas and discoveries from research that NSF supports,
and putting those ideas and discoveries to work in the War on Terrorism.
We need better tools to assemble a comprehensive picture of not
only the threats that we face, but how to predict them, how to
prevent them, and, worst case, how to respond.
Fundamental research to combat terrorism is very much in keeping
with the National Science Foundation's goals. Our mission, as described
in our founding legislation in 1950, is: "To promote the progress
of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare;
and to secure the national defense." The founding of NSF has
yielded a competitive advantage not enjoyed in WWII: we now have
a grantee base to mine that wasn't available at the start of that
One of the aims in our present NSF Strategic Plan is to "Foster
connections between discoveries and their use in the service of
society." In today’s world there can be no greater service
to society than to help keep terrorism at bay so that we can get
on with all the other important things that we as a nation need
One of the integrative strategies of the NSF Strategic Plan is
to "promote partnerships." The Plan emphasizes that "Collaboration
and partnerships between disciplines and institutions and among
academe, industry and government enable the movement of people,
ideas and tools [our goals] throughout the public and private sectors." In
the case of ACT, what we are accomplishing through the NSF-Intelligence
Community partnership is efficient movement of ideas and new tools
from academic researchers and educators into the arsenal of the
A critically important feature of ACT is the clear understanding
that the results of ACT-supported research will be published in
a timely manner in the peer-reviewed open literature. We thank
John Phillips for his strong support of, even insistence on, this
principal. Such openness is the NSF way, and it is especially critical
to the careers of the graduate students and postdoctoral researchers
who participate as colleagues in most of the work on NSF projects.
We will rely on effective partnerships to ensure that new ideas
and tools generated in these projects move quickly from the lab
bench to utilization by the Intelligence Community.
We were very pleased to learn that something like 68 out of 70
academic researchers said "yes" to the invitation to
participate in the workshop that preceded the initiation of ACT.
I believe that rather than the possibility of new funding or new
intellectual challenges, it was a genuine spirit of patriotism
that has inspired your participation in ACT.
It's nice, also, to see that all five MPS divisions are involved
in ACT. It is gratifying that even what may seem the most esoteric
of the MPS disciplines, Astronomy, can contribute. I guess it makes
sense that the challenge of finding a single star in a galaxy is
somewhat akin to some of the needle in the haystack challenges
that an intelligence agency faces in searching for small amounts
of meaningful information in huge piles of data.
Some of the projects that have been supported in the first round
of ACT awards are truly fascinating, such as "Biofuel Cells
Operating in Insects" and "Chemical Detection Modules
Engineered from Bacterial Signaling Proteins," to name just
two. Many of the projects are multidisciplinary, reflecting a growing
trend in investigator-initiated NSF research. I note also that
the largest number of projects are in the Sensors area, which is
an area of increasing emphasis for the Foundation. Sensors are
of growing importance in many areas as the enabling technology
that captures data from the system that is being observed and interfaces
with the cyberinfrastructure that transfers the data and converts
it into information. I fully expect that the results of many ACT
projects will be put to use in the public sector very quickly as
As you are no doubt aware, NSF plays an important role in the
development of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
workforce. Working on ACT projects will provide superb training
for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers for a variety
of roles in this workforce. I would expect that those students
and postdocs would be in great demand to fill positions in our
national laboratories, as well as elsewhere in our economy, defense,
and homeland security establishments.
I believe that in this workshop you should also look beyond ACT
and explore how the results of the thousands of other projects
that NSF supports could be more effectively harvested to benefit
the Intelligence Community and Homeland Security efforts. We are
not as effective as we could be in putting to commercial use discoveries
and technology developed in our universities. Often it is the lack
of partnerships or simply the lack of communication that leads
to this result.
More generally, your research under the ACT program, can contribute
to national goals beyond those only connected to terrorism. Viewing
your work in a context beyond the norm can help attract young people
to science and engineering, and help to secure the infrastructure
that keeps our societal machinery humming. We have an opportunity,
too, to answer the growing national appeal for examining the societal
impacts of the science and technology we create.
In drawing our youth into professions that will continue the essential
work of discovery and innovation, we inspire them through ACT by
demonstrating the impact they can have on society through their
decision to pursue a career in science or engineering research
and education. A challenge that's readily visible and has the potential
for "hitting close to home" adds convincing impetus.
Inviting students and teachers to toil alongside, in our physical
and virtual laboratories, as we sift through mountains of scientific
ore to unearth precious nuggets of pure discovery, adds to the
greater synergy ACT can create.
As you examine the research outlook specified for ACT grants please
keep in mind the potential for these broader impacts, and strive
to integrate them into our research and education agenda.
We all carry the responsibility to make our nation and our world
more secure. It is a privilege for us that in many cases, the work
that scientists, engineers, and educators do can be harnessed to
meet a pressing national need. We look forward to working with
you in this ACT investment that informs both the core mission of
the National Science Foundation, the needs of the Intelligence
Community, and the greater interests of the nation.
I welcome any questions and comments you may have.
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