Norman Neureiter, Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary
of State, drew a full house for a February 6 seminar on science
at the State Department. He talked about his aspirations for the
Department, his outreach efforts to both the public and private
sectors of the science community, and the enthusiastic response
he has received.

Neureiter spoke at the American Association for the Advancement
of Science (AAAS), in a seminar sponsored by the Washington
Science Policy Alliance. He acknowledged that it was largely
through many years of effort by AAAS, as well as others in the
science community, that the State Department is now taking
actions to boost its scientific capacity and strengthen
mechanisms for receiving expert advice from outside the
Department. The position of S&T adviser to the secretary was
only created last year as part of the Department’s response to a
National Research Council report that highlighted the need for
greater integration of S&T into the foreign policy process (see
FYIs #54, 2000 and #148, 1999). Neureiter, formerly vice
president of Texas Instruments Asia, assumed this position in
September 2000. An organic chemist, he worked as International
Affairs Assistant in the White House Office of Science and
Technology from 1969-1973. Prior to that, he served as Deputy
Science Attache in the US Embassy in Bonn, Germany, and then as
the first US Science Attache in Eastern Europe. He has also
spent time in NSF’s International Affairs Office, and has headed
numerous public and private sector committees and groups dealing
with international research cooperation.

Neureiter first outlined the circumstances leading to the current
situation, saying that diminished resources, new burdens and more
embassies in the early 1990s led to “triage” within the
Department, and “science was the loser.” The Department is now
trying to rebuild its S&T capability. As science adviser, his
goals are to raise the science consciousness within the
Department and introduce greater S&T literacy, to ensure that S&T
considerations are fully taken into account in the making of
foreign policy, and to ensure that the best scientific advice in
the world is fed into the policy-making machine. He spoke of
creating a “zero-impedance circuit” for the transmission of
advice and expertise from the science community into the

Neureiter described his outreach to universities, scientific
societies and organizations: “To tell the truth, the response
from these institutions has been embarrassingly effusive….
Every institution has offered to help.” AAAS and the National
Academy of Science have already sponsored their first science
roundtable to brief State Department officials on genetically
modified agricultural products, which he said enabled them to go
into international negotiations “far better prepared” than ever.
He added that much of the work in incorporating S&T into foreign
policy, such as preparing background papers and briefings, needs
to be done well before the negotiating stage. Neureiter also
remarked that AIP is currently advertising to select its first
State Department Science Fellow, who will provide scientific and
technical assistance within a bureau or office (see FYI #12 or for details on applying), and
that other organizations and industry groups are considering ways
to contribute expertise.

His discussions with other federal science departments and
agencies were equally productive. He found them all pleased with
the new emphasis on science at the State Department and eager to
pledge their support. NSF and NASA have offered to lend
professional scientists to spend time working within the
Department or at posts overseas.

Neureiter posed the question: “Is the State Department such a
desert of science and technology?” While noting that bureaus
such as Arms Control, and Oceans and International Environmental
and Scientific Affairs, have highly-qualified technical staff, he
added that to be really successful in his mission, he had to
reach into the regional bureaus also. He found it of great value
that his office is located outside of the bureau structure, so he
can “stick…my nose into really any issue and try to make a
contribution,” as well as serve as an “honest broker” between
bureaus. He has just established a Science Policy Network to
discuss S&T concerns and provide assistance, to which every
bureau has designated a representative. It is “a key thing,” he
said, that in such a complex department, with bureaus reaching
into every corner of the world, there is now someone with the
responsibility to be “our person” in each bureau. In this manner
he hoped that science and technology would be integrated into the
planning process of all the bureaus.

Neureiter talked about the need to get more technically trained
people into the Foreign Service, to provide science expertise at
embassies abroad, and eventually to compete for ambassadorial
positions. The embassies recognize this need, he said, and are
eager for professional scientists. He reported that the
Department is working with AAAS on recruitment and incorporating
more S&T in the Foreign Service entrance exam.

Addressing the question of how the change of Administration might
affect his role, Neureiter said new Secretary of State Colin
Powell had told him “everything is fine for now.” Because he
reports to the Secretary through the Under Secretary for Global
Affairs, Neureiter said much will depend on whether that position
is filled, and by whom. He expressed optimism that S&T “will
continue to be important” to the Department.

In closing, Neureiter reminded his audience that the three
pillars of US national security are intelligence, diplomacy, and
warfighting capability. Diplomacy, he said, “is the last stop
before war.” He concluded by citing dozens of foreign policy
issues with S&T dimensions, from satellite export controls to mad
cow disease to nanotechnology. “So we ain’t bored!” he declared.


Audrey T. Leath

Public Information Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3094