Better Integration of US Policy, Technology Urged

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

THOSE responsible for United States foreign policy must do a better job of integrating science and technology considerations into their activities if the US is to maintain its global leadership role. That is the premise underlying a recent report by the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government.

The range of issues with strong scientific or technological components is growing, the report notes - from climate change, economic development, and public health to international cooperation on basic-research projects such as the Superconducting Supercollider (SSC).

Whether the White House, State Department, or Congress, "all must take bold and imaginative steps to adapt to a world in which the border between domestic and foreign affairs is crossed everywhere and most particularly by science and technology," the report states.

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President Bush's recent trip to Japan is a testament to the need for change, says Rodney Nichols, one of the report's authors. "The Bush trip to Tokyo was a disaster," he says, " because nobody was integrating the strands of economic, scientific, and foreign-policy issues."

One goal of that trip was to bring home Japanese support for the SSC. Yet, says a congressional source, "the Japanese see it as a US project in which we're asking them to help out because we're broke."

"International programs will have to be discussed in advance" of starting them, he concludes, if the United States is to be more successful in attracting partners to such projects.

The Carnegie report is the latest in a line of studies dating back to the 1940s that call for more attention to scientific and technological aspects of US foreign policy. The issue is taking on more urgency, the authors say, as global attention shifts increasingly from cold-war confrontation toward economic development, integration, and competition.

The report makes several recommendations that the authors say will lead to a "balanced strategy" for dealing with issues where foreign policy and science cross paths. Some of these include:

* Give the State Department the overall charge of coordinating foreign policy with the international science and technology priorities and responsibilities defined by the president.

* Appoint a science and technology counselor to the US secretary of state.

* Increase the cadre of technically savvy foreign-service officers through recruitment, training, exchange, and advancement programs that give greater legitimacy to science and technology as a career path.

* See that the State Department gets adequate money and unambiguous direction. Congress makes exacting demands on the department to analyze and make projections about how changes in technology could affect foreign policy; yet Capitol Hill fails to give the State Department enough money to do the job.

Meanwhile, presidential executive orders work at cross purposes. A 1987 order bids State to recruit scientists and engineers to serve in embassies; yet in 1990, President Bush ordered that chiefs of missions abroad identify positions that could be cut to offset what otherwise would be additions to their staffs.

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