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White House science team outlines anti-terrorism focus

The Bush administration's science and technology policy team has identified five areas related to fighting terrorism that likely will receive additional investment as the fiscal 2004 budget is developed for release early next year, according to White House science adviser John Marburger.

The research areas are information infrastructure development, behavioral and risk management, terrorist-related crime and networks, public health and crisis response intervention and socioeconomic intervention, and international policy, Marburger said in a speech to the Consortium of Social Science Associations on Monday.

To "identify areas that warrant additional investment," Jim Griffin, assistant director of social, behavioral and educational issues at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), worked with staff from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Justice and Education departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pentagon and the CIA through the administration's anti-terrorism task force created this year.

In the field of information infrastructure, the administration plans to emphasize research on developing distributed databases for state and local emergency-response resources to facilitate rapid access to information. In the behavioral research arena, they will concentrate on individuals' risk assessments and reactions to extreme events.

The research priority looking at terrorism networks will examine how terrorist groups select, recruit and train members, and how they choose attack methods and organize. In the public health field, the aim is to conduct studies on traumatic effects of stress and their influence on behavior. Finally, scientists will seek to understand vulnerabilities in the economy that could be susceptible to various types of attacks.

Marburger noted that the administration's interagency task force on science and technology, called the National Science and Technology Council, is creating a subcommittee to address issues on education workforce development. The goal is to work on issues ranging from projected shortfalls in skilled workers to effective methods of promoting women and minorities.

While Marburger did not identify how much money would be allocated to such research, he said in a Wednesday speech that the broad research and development budget for fiscal 2004 would be higher than the $110 billion allocated for fiscal 2003.

"Since 1950, Americans have won half the Nobel Prizes. That has happened because our society believes science is important and has invested heavily in it," Marburger told a group gathered for a science awards ceremony. "President Bush asked Congress this year to appropriate the largest budget for science ever, more than $110 billion. That number will increase again next year, despite competing urgent national needs."

Since Bush took office, scientists have been watching the budget process closely, and some have been lobbying Congress and the administration to spend more on non life-sciences research.