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Civilian Research and Development Foundation Symposium

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Remarks by Dr. Neal Lane
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology

Civilian Research and Development Foundation Symposium
Tuesday, June 8
(Co-sponsored by AAAS)

It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to address this first symposium of the United States Civilian Research and Development Foundation for the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union.  I greatly appreciate the kind invitation from Gerson Sher to deliver this keynote address.  As many of you know, I had the privilege of helping to establish the CRDF in 1995, while serving as NSF Director.  I am proud — but not really surprised, given the excellent CRDF staff and Board — to say that CRDF has exceeded our expectations for building relationships and strengthening cooperation between scientists in the U.S. and in the former Soviet Union.  I congratulate you, Gerson, and members of the Board, especially the scientists, here today on your extraordinary achievements.

The CRDF really grew out of an unusual marriage between George Soros and the Department of Defense,
and I take some pride in NSF's role as the marriage broker.  Let me acknowledge the partners in this marriage.  It was Gloria Duffy, formerly DoD's Deputy Assistant Secretary in charge of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, and currently CRDF Board Chairman who matched the generous gift from George Soros to create the CRDF.  I would also like to acknowledge the dedication of the first Chairman, Peter Raven, and the entire Board.
I would like to take the opportunity today to say a few words about why this Administration believes that science must be a global undertaking, and about how international cooperation helps us reach key scientific, political, and national security objectives.  Most significantly, I would like to emphasize that we cannot afford to isolate our scientific community — including our national laboratories — from the world, even in the face of mounting political pressure.

Many of the challenges we face, from international terrorism to emerging infectious disease, and many of the opportunities within our reach, from economic stability to preservation of species, are global in scope and consequences.  That is one of the main points I would like to touch on today — the increasing global dependence on science and technology to help solve not only our nation's problems but those of the rest of the world as well.

It's very important to our nation, and consequently to the Clinton-Gore Administration, to recognize the importance of science and technology in an economy that is becoming increasingly global.  At its core, science is an international undertaking.  The fundamental workings of nature — the
function of a gene, the quantum behavior of matter and energy, the chemistry of the atmosphere — respect no national boundaries.  Louis Pasteur noted more than a century ago that, “Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.”

There is another side to that coin as well.  The United States and the other nations of the world are increasingly dependent on the global exchange of ideas and technologies to maintain vibrant national science and technology enterprises.  The importance of this global exchange grows as the pace of technological change increases.

And, scientific lines of communication between countries typically remain open even when almost every other form of contact has collapsed.  We saw this during the Cold War when, even in the chilliest periods, U.S. scientists maintained ties with their counterparts in the Soviet Union.  It is equally important today that scientific exchanges continue between nations that find themselves in conflict of one form or another.  Science is about harmony . . . about collaborative discovery.  It can help lay the groundwork for peace.

For these and other reasons, this Administration is committed to supporting programs like CRDF, which brings together the most promising scientists to take on our greatest scientific challenges.  The nearly $10 million in initial two-year grants that CRDF awarded back in 1996 represents an investment in cooperation between scientists from the United
States and the former Soviet Union.  That money has been hard at work in helping to move weapons scientists into civilian activities and in speeding the development of market economies in the former Soviet Union.  In these ways, then, CRDF is an excellent model for fostering international cooperation in science and technology.

I stated earlier that international cooperation in science and technology is critical not only in advancing basic knowledge, but also in enabling us to meet other national objectives.  Let's look at our efforts to understand climate change.  Our understanding of the environment is based on data from every part of the planet.  Whether we are tracking the next El Niño, studying Arctic ice cores, or examining the role of forests in the global carbon cycle, a comprehensive picture depends on sharing knowledge and data among researchers around the globe.

We have had great success through cooperation with Russian scientists and other international partners on climate research through geological studies of Lake Baikal in Siberia.  U.S. and Russian scientists have collaborated on a new picture of Siberia's role in the climate of the Northern Hemisphere.  This joint effort has also revealed a rich history of how the terrestrial plant communities of Siberia and Mongolia have responded to climate change.  This research was carried out in Russia, but it has important implications for our understanding of climate change here in the United States and around the world.

Our understanding of long-term climate change was also greatly enhanced by a collaboration among U.S., Russian, and French scientists at the Russian Vostok station in Antarctica.  Last week, members of that team reported in Nature that their ice core data shows that levels of carbon dioxide and methane are higher in the atmosphere today than they have been over the past 420,000 years.  Previous ice cores had extended only about 150,000 to 160,000 years into the past, whereas the Vostok data span four full glacial cycles.
Equally important to our understanding of the global environment are the ecological studies that will be presented today, comparing the dynamics of invasive plant species in the Central Caucasus and the Northern Rockies.  I would like to congratulate Drs. Kikvidze and Callaway — and all of the other teams here today — on their excellent work.

National security is an area in which the benefits of international collaboration have been critical.  Through cooperation with scientists in the former Soviet Union, we have been able to substantially reduce the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  Our joint efforts have enabled us to secure potentially vulnerable supplies of nuclear weapons materials — plutonium and highly enriched uranium — and to develop the means to dispose of them.

Of equal importance is our effort to prevent the proliferation of weapons expertise.  As everyone in this room is well aware, through programs at the CRDF, the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC), and others, we are helping to provide peaceful employment for former Soviet weapons scientists who would otherwise find it difficult to
continue working in science, at least in nonmilitary science.  Support to former Soviet weapons scientists by CRDF, ISTC, DoE's Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention, or DoE' s Nuclear Cities Initiative could be the crucial factor in keeping these scientists productively employed.

International cooperation is also critical to the success of arms control treaties.  The Energy Department labs provide essential training in nuclear material controls to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Through unclassified training programs, these foreign inspectors learn to monitor adherence to nuclear treaties and ensure against the diversion of nuclear materials.  U.S. researchers now work with international colleagues to monitor the Chemical Weapons Convention, and they are already laying the groundwork for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty's entry into force.

Even purely national goals such as maintaining our own nuclear weapons capability require us to keep abreast of advances in the international scientific community.  Some of the best atomic physics codes — unclassified computer calculations about the structure of atoms — are now written abroad.  The science embodied in these codes is critical to our Stockpile Stewardship program, which will rely on sophisticated computer modeling — instead of nuclear tests — to ensure the reliability and safety of our nuclear weapons stockpile.  Hundreds of atomic physicists around the world work to test and improve atomic physics models.  U.S. scientists at our national laboratories then adapt these results to support classified weapons work.  Through their ability to keep abreast of the international state of the art, our scientists have access to the best available science to support our nuclear weapons work.

This Administration has demonstrated its commitment to supporting international scientific collaboration with Russia and the countries of the FSU.  In his FY2000 budget, President Clinton called for an almost threefold increase for programs to engage scientists in the former Soviet Union, from $64 million in FY1999 to $176.5 million in FY2000.

Under the President's FY2000 budget request, CRDF would receive a major increase over FY1999, from $10 million to $23.5 million.  This demonstrates the confidence the President and I have in the extraordinary work of the CRDF.  Thanks to contributions in FY 1999 from NSF, NIH, and the State Department, CRDF will hold a major new grants competition.  This new competition will be critical to strengthening the civilian science base in the former Soviet Union, and it will enable many weapons scientists to turn to peaceful endeavors.  The proposed increase will enable CRDF to expand its activities, including its Next Steps to Market program, which will go a long way toward developing technology-based businesses in the former Soviet Union.

U.S. support for the International Science and Technology Center and the Science and Technology Center in the Ukraine will also increase in the FY2000 budget request under our enhanced nonproliferation initiatives.  Since 1994, the ISTC has committed more than $200 million to projects employing 24,000 weapons experts from across the Soviet Union.  This program has enabled former nuclear physicists to turn to nuclear waste management, to cancer research, or even to developing commercially viable technologies for use in environmental studies.  The FY2000 budget request calls for $95 million for the science centers, up from $21 million in FY1999.

The President's budget request would also significantly strengthen programs that focus on another major threat:  biological weapons.  We now have a concerted interagency — and international — effort to engage former biological weapons scientists in peaceful areas of research, such as infectious diseases and vaccine development.  For example, through an ISTC grant, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working closely with a former biological weapons facility at Obolensk to develop new treatments for tuberculosis, now one of Russia's major disease threats.  Beyond the research advances, these programs play a significant role in promoting openness and transparency in Russia's formerly closed facilities.

I've touched upon the national security benefits we derive for international collaboration.  Let me make a few comments about an issue that is uppermost in everyone's minds at the moment:  the recent allegations of espionage at the Energy Department's national laboratories.  The DOE labs engage with foreign scientists because it is in our nation's interest to do so — both our national security interests and our interest in maintaining scientific excellence.  Through the foreign visitors program, we are actually strengthening national security, for the reasons I outlined earlier.

And, it is important to observe that there has been no allegation that any foreign visitor was engaged in espionage.

Allegations of espionage are serious matters, and they have cast much-needed attention on the need to strengthen security measures at our nuclear weapons labs.  But we must be careful not to adopt a misguided, xenophobic approach that would potentially undermine our national security.

The moratorium on foreign visitors being proposed by some members of Congress would severely hamper our efforts to control the post-Soviet arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, not only because it would block collaborative activities here, but also because it would immediately lead to curtailment of U.S. access to sites in Russia.  The ability to host reciprocal visits to U.S. facilities is critical if we are to maintain our ability to engage with institutes and researchers
in Russia.  Moreover, such a moratorium would seriously interfere with our labs' ability to participate in cutting-edge international science and technology.  That would be bad for science — and bad for the nation.

I also want to make clear that Americans are Americans.  We do not, and we should not, start drawing distinctions between and among U.S. citizens based on where they were born.  It would be un-American to do so.

I think the message here is clear.  We would pay a huge price for isolating our laboratories — and in the end damage the very security we seek to protect.

Having made these points, it must also be said, in the strongest terms, that we must maintain the highest security around classified areas of activity while maintaining openness
in less sensitive areas.  In February 1998, the President directed that a comprehensive program be undertaken at the Department of Energy to increase security at the labs.  Last month, the Secretary of Energy elaborated on these measures by announcing a package of further security reforms.   These measures will allow us to continue our longstanding policy of openness and collaboration with our international partners in unclassified areas of research.

Let me close with a note of optimism for the future.
A little more than a year ago, the President addressed the American Association for the Advancement of Science at its sesquicentennial meeting in Philadelphia, and pondered how our world would look 50 years from now.  The President expressed his vision of a future  “where climatic disruption has been halted; where wars on cancer and AIDS have long since been won; where humanity is safe from the destructive force of chemical and biological weapons; where our noble career of science is pursued and then advanced by children of every race and background; and where the benefits of science are broadly shared in countries both rich and poor.”   The message I hope to leave you with today is that this vision can be achieved only through a global effort.

For my part, I have made international science and technology a special priority for the month of June.  During this month, I will meet with the G-8 Science and Technology Ministers, the OECD Science and Technology Ministerial, the UNESCO World Science Conference, and the British Parliamentary Science Committee, where we will share our vision of the importance of science and technology to our future.

I know that many of you in this room have played important roles in supporting the global scientific enterprise, either at the policy level or the scientist-to-scientist level.  I commend you for your contributions, and I look forward to working together with you to meet the challenges of the new century.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you today, and thanks for the great work you continue to do.

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