Press Release

AIP FYI 131: State Department Science Adviser on S&T in Foreign Policy

By SpaceRef Editor
October 24, 2001
Filed under ,

Instead of a new world order, we have “a new world of inordinate
disorder,” Norman Neureiter told an audience at Georgetown
University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.
Neureiter, the Science and Technology Adviser to Secretary of
State Colin Powell, said that “whether we want it or not,” the
United States carries “the mantle of world leadership.”

Speaking at the October 6 Loewy Memorial Lecture in Science,
Technology and International Affairs, Neureiter said the U.S.
Department of State has a crucial role in the nation’s security.
National security has three elements – intelligence, diplomacy,
and military preparedness – he said, and science and technology
underlie all three. “I feel very, very strongly about the role
of diplomacy,” he stated. “When you stop talking, that’s when
you start shooting.”

Neureiter warned that diplomacy in the 21st century will need
“much greater literacy in science and technology,” but State
Department budget cuts of almost 20 percent since the mid-1990s
have left the department “inadequately equipped” to handle such
issues. Neureiter views his role as “trying to make sure that
the people who have to make policy decisions have the best
science and technology counsel and advice possible.” Decisions
may ultimately be based on political considerations, he said, but
should not be “made in ignorance.”

Neureiter cited the AIP State Department Science Fellowship as
one example of bringing S&T expertise into the department through
“limited-term assignments of professionals.” (Information on the
Fellowship can be found at http://www.aip.org/mgr/sdf.html). The
State Department needs advice from “dedicated scientists with a
little bit more than bench smarts,” he commented. Such
scientists must be able to communicate effectively with experts
in foreign policy, he said, and bear a responsibility for
explaining the scientific basis behind their opinions and
interpretations. Neureiter is also working to get more S&T
training available for foreign service officers and more science-
related questions included on foreign service exams. A big part
of his job, he said, is to “penetrate the barriers” to the
department’s regional bureaus, which he called “the heart of the
traditional foreign service.”

In the area of counter-terrorism, Neureiter reported that a
working group within the State Department has identified at
least 88 different technologies of interest to the federal
counter-terrorism community to protect against threats or detect
them ahead of time. Cybersecurity is “a huge issue,” he said.
Other priority areas he mentioned include sustainable development
and bioethics, HIV/AIDS, global warming, conflict diamonds, and
export controls. He acknowledged concerns that current export
control regulations could result in “wiping out the space
research capabilities” at U.S. universities, and that the issue
had not yet been resolved. Another priority is space policy; at
least 11 bureaus within the department have interests in the
protection of satellites, the use and militarization of space, or
related issues, and Neureiter chairs the department’s space
policy committee. He is also directly involved in a new effort
to build science and technology relationships with India, and is
working on an S&T agreement with Vietnam. He works regularly
with S&T officials in other federal agencies, and has already
contacted the OSTP director nominee, John Marburger, about
instituting regular meetings.

Neureiter’s varied career in science and foreign policy spans
many decades of public and private sector experience. Originally
an organic chemist, he served in NSF, the State Department, and
then OSTP in the 1960s and early 1970s, and retired in 1996 from
the position of vice president of Texas Instruments Asia. Of his
return to government service last year as Science and Technology
Adviser to the Secretary, he commented, “I still go into the
State Department every day with a certain sense of childish
thrill.” He called it a “fascinating institution,” and still
finds it remarkable that the department has experts who are
familiar with “every geographic niche in the world.”

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Audrey T. Leath

Media and Government Relations Division

The American Institute of Physics

[email protected]

(301) 209-3094

http://www.aip.org/gov

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SpaceRef staff editor.