CReST Blog


The CReST blog is intended to keep you updated on discussions addressing key societal, national, and international science and technology issues.  Blogs will address ongoing discussions, Bold Ideas seminars, current events, and policy recommendations. 

The Center for Revolutionary Scientific Thought is comprised of Potomac Institute Employees and additional Adjunct Fellows. There are three permanent members of CReST: the CEO, Mike Swetnam; the Chief Scientist, Bob Hummel; and the Chief of Staff, Kathryn Schiller-Wurster. This year there are three CReST Fellows: Jennifer Buss, Patrick Cheetham, and Ewelina Czapla.  Senior CReST Fellow Mark Ridinger and additional Adjunct Fellows participate in CReST meetings for the discussion of the bold ideas addressing key societal, national, and international science and technology issues. If you have questions or additional comments, please contact the CReST Coordinator, Jen Buss.








Amb. David Smith (Ret.), Director of the Potomac Institute Cyber Center, and PICC Fellows and guests blog on cyber security and cyber policy issues at



Professor Yonah Alexander of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies International Center for Terrorism Studies released a special report on January 29, 2010, entitled: Maghreb and Sahel Terrorism: Addressing the Rising Threat from Al Qaeda and Other Terroirsts ijn North and West/Central Africa.  Click below to read the report in full.   

"Crossing Boundaries: Medical Biodefense and Civilian Medicine"
November 22-23, 2004, Crystal City Marriott
Senior Research Fellow, David Siegrist, spoke about "BioShield Medical Countermeasures Procurement Program" as the luncheon speaker.
Conference Hosted by George Mason University

Advanced Technological Needs for Biological Terrorism Consequence Management
2000 Association of Politics and the Life Sciences
Washington, DC
September 2, 2000

Biological Weapons and Biotechnology
Out of the Box and Into the Future Conference
Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, Washington, DC
June 27, 2000

Prospects for SuperTerrorism: PDF 505K
Senior Executive Course on Intl. Security Trends in the 21st Century
Marshall Center, Germany
September 14, 1999

Behavioral Impact of an Anthrax Release: PDF 631K 
1999 Association of Politics and the Life Sciences
Atlanta, GA
September 2, 1999

Emerging Threats of Biological Terrorism: Recent Developments
Potomac Institute for Policy Studies with George Washington University
Arlington, VA
June 16, 1998

Advanced Technology to Counter Biological Terrorism: PDF 63K
1998 International Conference on Threats of the Technological Age
May 17-18, 1998

Countering Biological Terrorism: Strategic Firepower in the Hands of the Many
Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
Arlington, VA
August 12-13, 1997

The following links are provided only to inform the user on the programs and technologies available. This list is not comprehensive, nor exclusive of opinion. There exist many other outlets for this type of information, the links below represent only a small portion of the total available. There are also many other opinions on how to cope with the potential for biological attack, the information below represents only a portion of the available opinion. The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies holds no responsibility to the information contained at the linked site. If you believe that a particular link or information set may be of use in this discussion, please feel free to contact us.

Links on Protection and Detection

Potomac Institute Pioneers Biosurveillance Evaluation

Nuclear Biological Chemical Defense Annual Report to Congress - 1999

Chemical & Biological National Security Program, United States Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration

Joint Program Office for Biological Defense

Medical NBC Online Information Server

Testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
Dr. James Richardson, Vice President for Research, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
February 25, 1999

Good morning Mr. Chairman, and thank you for the privilege of addressing your committee on this very important topic. The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies performed a NASA-funded study on commercializing the International Space Station (ISS) in 1996. During the study we collected and analyzed publications and sought extensive counsel across industry and government. Beginning with our panel, chaired by Mr. James Beggs, we interviewed over 200 people, representing approximately 50 companies, universities, and government agencies. We also conducted 12 case studies to look at potential utilization of piloted orbital space.

Quickly paraphrased, the study suggests that commercialization of human orbital space could yield considerable benefits. But, although there are some plausible commercial space-based ventures, we found no corporations that could access space without government help. The amount of help needed from NASA is considerable, for we found that successful ISS commercialization demanded a broader context than the ISS, involving space access and other orbital resources. In the face of this, NASA had articulated considerable support for commercialization, but had failed to commit the resources needed.

I have submitted a summary of the report for the record, which provides details and supporting data. During the next few minutes, I would like to offer some pertinent findings and recommendations from the Institute’s study.


Benefits to NASA’s mission include:

  • better and more affordable space assets
  • increased utilization of the Shuttle, ISS and Reusable Launch Vehicle
  • release of NASA resources for application to new science frontiers
  • leveraged private investment
  • improved innovation and importation of commercial technology to space endeavors
  • increased public support for space operations

Three national benefits identified were:

  • enhancement of U.S. industry competitiveness
  • spin-offs of new technologies to non-space industries
  • national prestige


The most viable opportunities lay in the privatization of government functions, such as resupply and operation of the space station.

Emerging privatization opportunities encouraged industries to develop better and more affordable operations, services, support, and space equipment. Importantly, this also enables industry to better serve commercial space ventures.

Commercial research ventures, in biomedicine and materials, have provided important insights into earth-based processes.

Near-term commercial opportunities existed in education, entertainment, and advertisement.

HOWEVER, NO COMMERCIAL VENTURE WAS ABLE TO GET INTO SPACE WITHOUT HELP FROM THE GOVERNMENT. Major problems cited included high launch and operation costs, low flight frequency and reliability, long launch lead times, and expensive indemnification against flight failure. Government help in situations like this is consistent with historical precedents set during the initiation of U.S. transportation systems, such as canals, rail, air, and interstate highways.

NASA HAD INDICATED A DESIRE TO TRANSFER ISS AND OTHER HUMAN ORBITAL SPACE FLIGHT ACTIVITIES TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR. THEY HAD ALSO AGREED WITH THE CONCEPT OF OFFSETTING NASA’S EXPENSES THROUGH A HEALTHY COMMERCIAL MARKET. EVEN SO, NASA’S EFFORTS TO FOSTER COMMERCIALIZATION WERE DECLINING. NASA’s superb accomplishments in space science continued, despite diminishing manning levels and budgets. But, in the inevitable tradeoffs between mission areas, commercialization seemed to be losing. For example:

The percent of NASA’s budget dedicated to commercialization declined steadily since 1993. At its highest, this portion was still less than one percent.

Reorganizations left NASA without an institutional center to accommodate commercial participants.

NASA lacked a coherent outreach program to commercial business.

Many publicly-stated promises went unfulfilled.

And, although procurement and procedural inflexibilities have been reduced, they are still too typical of NASA’s operation.UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, CORPORATIONS CONTACTED TENDED TO ASSUME THAT SPACE ACCESS WOULD REMAIN TOO RISKY AND SUBJECT TO BUREAUCRATIC PROCESSES. This stifled creative thought about space utilization in corporate boardrooms around the country, and posed a serious detriment to commercialization.

WE SUGGESTED A STRATEGY OF PRIVATIZATION-TO-COMMERCIALIZATION OF HUMAN ORBITAL SPACE AS A LOGICAL MEANS OF ACHIEVING NASA’S AIMS. Many components of our recommended strategy are reflected in NASA’s recent ISS commercialization plans.

SUCH A STRATEGY WILL NOT BE AN EASY UNDERTAKING. It will demand enthusiastic follow-through, with active support from the highest echelon of NASA. There must also be an implementation arm to create a more innovative and productive link between NASA and the private sector, and to develop and husband supporting policies, directives, and strategies. Some characteristics of the proposed strategy are:

  • Clearly stated commercialization goals, with a focal point within NASA to effectively pursue them.
  • Private sector representation in formulating plans, strategies, and policies, which should include an outreach program to convince commercial industry of the viability of operating in space, from both a technological and business perspective.
  • Compelling incentives for NASA management and personnel to support and accomplish commercialization goals.
  • A "Privatization-to-Commercialization" approach, with sufficient NASA investment to support it.
  • This approach must mandate the use of privately developed infrastructure by outsourcing and discouraging in-house competition with the private sector.
  • It must support the use of privatized facilities for commercial ventures.
  • It must support a realistic return on equity for the private sector, considering risks.
  • And, NASA should accept the role of anchor tenant, where appropriate.
  • A policy of providing support, encouragement, advice, and space access to diverse commercial sectors.
  • Added emphasis on reducing impediments to more frequent and affordable space access.

A Commercial Development Office (CDO) and a Space Economic Development Corporation (SEDC). The need for commercial advocacy within NASA is sufficiently compelling to warrant changes in organizational structure. First, NASA should form an in-house CDO to serve as a focal point and to advocate commercialization within NASA. The CDO should then organize a public/private partnership SEDC, which would take over some of the functions of commercialization and, eventually, most of the commercialization effort.

The CDO would begin this process by refining NASA’s strategy, developing contacts within the private sector, consulting with NASA Offices and Field Centers, recommending some early policies, and developing innovative approaches to privatization. The CDO should contain sufficient governmental expertise to coordinate actions and obtain support from within NASA. The major thrust of the CDO, however, would be business; therefore, it must include personnel with extensive experience in the business world. Venture capitalism, business and legal processes, as well as technology and product development must be represented. The staffing for the business side of the CDO should be found outside of the government. Such people would also help to form the SEDC.

The SEDC would represent the link with the private sector, providing a business environment to those industries seeking access to space for commercial purposes, or to those interested in privatization of space assets. It would begin as a quasi-government corporation. Its mission should include forming consortia, negotiating business agreements, formulating venture plans and strategies, and performing other functions that government cannot accomplish. The SEDC could accept funds from government or the aerospace industry. Large space assets ventures, such as the RLV could form their own development corporation, or rely on the SEDC. This organization would eventually lead the commercialization effort, acting in the role of a true development corporation. Until this "spin-off" occurs, they would support the CDO in conducting a series of outreach programs, encouraging industry to consider human orbital space flight, reaching a better understanding of the special problems of the private sector, and exploring benefits of space to the commercial marketplace. The SEDC would also help NASA become more appreciative of private sector values and approaches.That concludes my comments. Again, thank you for this opportunity. I would be happy to address any questions you may have.

Contact Dr. Jim Richardson at (703) 525-0770, or send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., for more information.

In reaffirming and clarifying the U.S. position on anti-personnel land mines (APL), the President stated that: the United States' goal is to end use of APL outside of Korea (including self-destructing APL) by 2003; alternatives are to be ready to replace APL in Korea by 2006; and mixed systems of self-destructing anti-personnel (AP) submunitions and anti-vehicle (AV) submunitions are necessary to meet security requirements. Accordingly, the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) has directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to undertake an aggressive program to achieve alternatives; this is the long-term goal also known as "Track 2."

The Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is responsible for executing "Track 2," focusing on the program objective of developing and implementing alternatives to meet the requirements currently met by APL (non-self-destructing and self-destructing), particularly in Korea. DARPA was directed by the Undersecretary of Defense to form a task force to review potential technology alternatives to anti-personnel land mines. This task force investigated maneuver denial approaches that may be more innovative and/or take advantage of advanced technologies.

The Potomac Institute has been asked by DARPA to assist the DoD in its efforts to find alternatives to anti-personnel land mines. The Institute worked with DARPA to form and conduct this task force. The task force's initial report was due to the Undersecretary on 14 November 1997.

Full Report PDF 448K/47 pgs

In 1996 the Potomac Institute conducted a brief study on the current status of security on the Internet and in other information systems. The analysis and recommendations focused on the role of government in protecting the privacy and security of its agencies, businesses, and citizens.

Treatise on the Information Infrastructure (PIPS-96-T): PDF 39K

The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies conducted a brief study on the Technology Reinvestment Project (TRP) for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The analysis and recommendations focused on how the TRP made significant progress in establishing a new way of doing business.

Read the TRP Development Study


A Dialogue Between Warfighters and Scientists on Far-Future Warfare (2025)
June 26-27, 2000
International Trade Center at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.

Conference Summary Report (.pdf File)
Conference Brochure (.pdf File)

Senators Lieberman, Roberts and Bingaman endorsed the Out of the Box project

Co-Sponsored by:
Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
Air Force Office of Scientific Research
Armed Forces Journal International
Department of the Army
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
National Intelligence Council
National Science Foundation
Office of Naval Research
U.S. Joint Forces Command

With support from :
IBM Corporation
American Association of Engineering Societies
Coalition for National Security Research

The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies has been asked by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to perform an independent study of the MARITECH program, as it approachs its fifth year and is in the process of transferring to Navy management. Much is to be gained by taking a hard and independent look at this revolutionary program to understand how well it is accomplishing its objectives and what benefits are expected over the next few years. A good deal of this insight can be gained from examining those efforts managed by the shipyards.

The principal goals of the MARITECH Program Review are to:

  • Provide an independent assessment of ongoing and completed shipyard-managed projects conducted under MARITECH
  • Assess how well these projects are serving the objectives set by the MARITECH Program Office
  • Collect and document stories to illustrate the benefits and the difficulties encountered in conducting a dual-use program with an emphasis on creating a commercial market
  • Derive lessons learned that will help guide future efforts and provide insight into prioritization of goals and approaches

Download the MARITECH Study here: PDF 845K/278 pages

Download just the Executive Summary from the MARITECH Study: PDF 50K/12 pages

MARITECH Program Background

New Challenges

The post-Cold War defense procurement posture has changed significantly. The Department of Defense (DoD) no longer projects the procurement of large numbers of new weapon systems. Particularly hard hit is U.S. Navy procurement of capital ships, which has declined steadily since 1991. Current strategy calls for the maintenance of a 300 ship Navy compared to the mid 1980’s goal of a 600 ship Navy. The effects of this vastly changed procurement posture on the U.S. shipbuilding industry were of great concern a half dozen years ago when the DoD budget began to fall. Our political leaders were particularly worried because the U.S. shipbuilding industry was almost totally devoted to building U.S. Navy ships and therefore had no other market to turn to.

The impact is beginning to be visited upon the Navy, which is finding costs and availability of shipbuilding technologies and facilities rising at an alarming rate. An effective way to counter this trend is to look to the commercial marketplace, as is being done in the various dual-use activities throughout the DoD. However, dual-use cannot be a solution where there is no commercial industry. Unfortunately, that is the case with the U.S. shipbuilding industry today, which for decades has neglected the building of commercial vessels. This neglect, coupled with the ever-diminishing demand for Navy ships, has resulted in an atrophy throughout the American shipbuilding industry which threatens to end not only our ability to ever compete in commercial shipbuilding again, but also in military shipbuilding.

Although a solution to the diminishment of Navy ship procurement may be for U.S. shipyards to become competitive in the global shipbuilding market, there has been little evidence that this can be done in the near future without an intense and collective effort by the shipyards, perhaps with government help. Recent experience is not encouraging. In the mid-70’s, U.S. shipbuilders built, on average, 20 large commercial ships per year. This production rate has steadily decreased, with fewer than 20 ships being built during the entire eleven-year period, from 1982 to 1993. [1]


In October 1993 President Clinton approved and signed a report to Congress titled, "Strengthening America’s Shipyards: A Plan for Competing in the International Market." This report described a program, MARITECH, that would share the costs of industry-initiated research and development projects to accelerate technology transfer and process change. MARITECH was to focus on manufacturing and information technologies needed by U.S. shipyards to become competitive in international shipbuilding commerce. The program is managed by the MARITECH Office, operating under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) with personnel support from the U.S. Navy and the Maritime Administration. The MARITECH Program began in FY93, principally to encourage the U.S. shipbuilding industry to expand into the commercial sector, thereby increasing its potential for staying in business and passing savings gained from commercial efficiencies and economies of scale to the Navy. The MARITECH Program has been funded at $30-50 million per year since FY94. The program receives its final year of funding in FY98 and will then transition to a U.S. Navy managed effort to carry on the goals of MARITECH.

MARITECH Objectives and Approach

Five objectives were adopted by MARITECH to facilitate pursuit of commercial competitiveness in the shipbuilding sector. These objectives were listed in the President’s Plan and the National Shipbuilding and Shipyard Conversion Act of 1993. They are to:

  • Encourage and support proactive market analysis and product development
  • Develop a portfolio of U.S. designs
  • Develop innovative design and production processes and technology
  • Facilitate government and industry technology transfer activities
  • Encourage formation of consortia for short- and long-term technology investment strategies

The resulting MARITECH Program has sponsored projects in three areas:

The Near Term Approach is to apply technology for quick commercial market penetration. The stated goals of the near-term phase is to penetrate the global market in one-to-three years, and to change the U.S. shipbuilding culture to commercial practices. This is being accomplished through vertically oriented consortia or teams, market-oriented commercial ship designs, commercial shipbuilding strategies, and business plans.

The Long Term Approach is to develop advanced technology to achieve a self-sustaining shipbuilding mobilization base. The approach is to emphasize consortia or teams, to seek out and develop advanced technology and radical process and product improvements, and to facilitate culture changes toward commercialization.

In addition, MARITECH has initiated Nsnet, an electronic commerce and computer-integrated enterprise to bring information and electronic technology strengths of DARPA and the nation to the maritime industry. Results of working in this area will include: building an internet infrastructure in the maritime community and developing and deploying future technologies to enable the community to perform electronic commerce. Shipyard-Managed Projects

Many of the projects sponsored by MARITECH are managed by one of nineteen shipyards. They are especially focused on developing technology and infrastructure and pursuing a large commercial market in shipbuilding. The MARITECH Program Office perceives that these projects constitute a vital cross section of the total MARITECH Program, providing insight into the strengths, weaknesses and lessons to be learned from the program as a whole.

The MARITECH Program Review

As stated above, the basic purpose of the MARITECH Program is to improve the commercial competitiveness of the U.S. shipbuilding industry. Benefits to the Navy include improved availability of shipbuilding, more efficient (therefore faster and less expensive) shipbuilding processes, and a broader range of dual-use technologies and products. In order to optimize this process, it is important to understand its major efforts at each stage of progress. This will be accomplished through the Institute's MARITECH Program Review which will study each of the shipyard-managed MARITECH projects at fourteen yards.

[1] SCA, "International Shipbuilding Aid-Shipbuilding Aid Practices of the Top OECD subsidizing Nations and Their Impacts on U.S. Shipyards," Shipbuilders’ Council of America (SCA), Arlington, VA, 1993.

The Potomac Institute completed a study in early 1997 on the potential commercialization of space. The study focused on NASA's plans for the new space station. This project, called the International Space Station Commercialization (ISSC) Study, has played an integral part in helping the government identify technologies that deserve incentives to begin the process of commercializing space. The analysis included a process model by which a self-supporting space industry might be developed.

International Space Station Commercialization Study (PIPS-97-1): PDF 303K

Read about Dr. James Richardson's testimony before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics regarding the ISSC Study

Visit NASA's web site

In 1995 and 1996, the Institute conducted a study leading to a widely recognized report on dual use research. The study began with an intensive literature search centered on capturing the history of Department of Defense (DoD) investment in technologies that have commercial potential. The second part of the study reviewed case studies of DoD's Technology Reinvestment Project (TRP), whose mission was dual-use partnerships with industry. A distinguished Senior Military Industry Panel was formed to review the accumulated data and draw conclusions on the merit of dual-use research. This study has had pronounced impact on national policy. Congress adopted and integrated several of the conclusions of the study into the DoD FY '97 Authorization bill. The bill was subsequently signed into law by the President in September 1996.

Executive Summary of Dual-Use Report (PIPS-96-3): PDF 231K

DARPA's web site

The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies (the Institute) was asked to perform a six-month study of technology transition at the Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA), Transitioning DARPA Technology. In this project, the Institute developed and documented an understanding of how well DARPA has transitioned these products into military systems over the past forty years. The report also addresses how that mission has been affected by the nature of the Agency and its output, and by the environment in which it operates.

The study had four goals:

  • to examine DARPA's history of transition to its military customer
  • to empirically identify transition paths and strategies employed by DARPA
  • to identify factors that affect DARPA's transition rates and to cite recent changes in those factors
  • to suggest how DARPA might improve transition

In order to accomplish the four study goals, Dr. James Richardson, Diane Larriva, and Stephanie Tennyson drew from the wisdom of past studies but also collected additional data, and developed a nomenclature for understanding and assessing DARPA's transition record. They compiled a list of 124 transitioned DARPA programs, but concentrated on two subsets of this program population. The first set, programs transitioned during the last decade (1990s), was chosen because it was deemed to be easier to obtain information on these programs rather than on earlier decades. The second program population, a subset of the last decade, is the New Starts (or initiatives) begun during Fiscal Year (FY) 1991. For this subset, the research team tracked eighteen new starts, objectively selected with no bias toward either success or failure, until they transitioned products, failed and were abandoned, or continued development with a Service lab.

Assessing transition performance for a research and development (R&D) organization, particularly one with DARPA's mission and operational strategies, is an inexact and argumentative undertaking—not given to a “single number” answer. After much thought, data collection, and analysis, the researchers came to believe that DARPA's transition record should be viewed from many perspectives and that the best way to judge its accomplishments is through a composite of these views. Four perspectives were chosen that together describe DARPA's transition performance and affect the standards of success under which it should be judged. The four were: (1) total number of products transitions to the military services by DARPA; (2) rate of transition, in terms of transitions per number of program initiated; (3) quality of products; and (4) other factors that affect transition. However, for the most part, that judgment remains somewhat subjective, principally because of the difficulties in arriving at an objective standard for success. Analysis of DARPA's record from the four perspectives led the researchers to the conclusion that the Agency's transition performance has been impressive. Moreover, there is ample evidence of many uncounted successful transitions, particularly during DARPA's early history.

To define frequently used transition paths, the team investigated the three canonical transition paths: (1) DARPA-to-Service Acquisition (DSA), (2) DARPA-to-Industry-to Service acquisition (DIS), and (3) DARPA-to-Service Science and Technology (DS&T). The main factor in determining these paths was the financial support of the product once it left DARPA. The report offers examples of products that have transitioned by each path. The report further shows how the paths examined for the 1990s Decade products had some unique features.

The team analyzed the factors that either impede or improve transition potential at DARPA. Some of these factors stem from DARPA's mission or organizational characteristics and policies. Others are part of the environment under which the Agency must transition its products. They also looked at changes in these factors that have occurred as the result of new trends in our world during the past ten years—changes in political, military, business, and R&D environments that have, or should have, affected transition. Some of the main organizational characteristics of DARPA's mission elements were the pursuit of radical innovation with high risk/high pay-off programs and seeking solutions to national level problems. Other factors include high program manager turnover, neglect to credit sponsorship, consortia, and flexible contracting procedures. The report also documents the impact of the environment in which DARPA must operate on transition. Such factors include timing, regulations, customer, and budgetary considerations.

The principal finding of the study is that DARPA's transition performance has been excellent over the past forty years, inserting over 120 products or technologies into fielded systems (about 3 per year). During the past decade, the Agency's record has been even better, about 5 per year. Finally, where data was available, we calculated transition rates and found them to be at a level exceptionally high according to industry's standards. Considering DARPA's other missions and its responsibility to foster high-risk/high-payoff ideas, the Institute's team considers these statistics quite impressive.

Overall, transition at DARPA is an opportunistic pursuit, greatly enhanced by skilled and dedicated DARPA and industry program manager and Service agent teams. It is likely that any structure or procedure that limits the program manager's sense of responsibility or options to transition his or her products will negatively affect the Agency's rate of transition.

Finally, the report offers some suggestions on implementing changes to DARPA's transition strategies and policies. Each recommendation is discusses in light of the team's findings and analyses, as well as other studies. Recommendations include maximizing the effectiveness of the DARPA and industry program manager and Service agent team, and exploiting recent avenues of transition initiated by OSD and the Military Services. Furthermore, the report also recommends developing a better system of tracking and recording transitions and lessons learned, and integrating the results, as well as ensuring sufficient technological maturity of products.

Executive Summary: PDF 1.86MB/19 pgs

The rate and impact of scientific breakthroughs and applications will continue to rise over the next twenty years, spawning immense changes to society that can be both crucially beneficial and tragically destructive. This growing and enduring trend, principally occurring outside of government, is producing both threats and solutions to our national security that are dramatically enhanced by emerging disruptive technologies. Our nation’s leadership needs considerable scientific and technological acumen to make balanced decisions and set national priorities - many of which are becoming increasingly technical in nature.

Yet, while political aspects of these issues are laboriously considered, even the foundational scientific arguments are infrequently well represented - too often there is no "scientist at the table." In fact, Congress exacerbated this situation by eliminating their Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in 1995. More disturbing is the fact that policies that directly affect science and technology (S&T) - for instance, policies that encourage and capitalize the positive output of research, while mitigating its dark side - are too often fractional, and narrowly focused.

It is time to consider broadly based and collaborative, long-term (sustainable) policies to guide the nation’s decisions and its efforts to develop and exploit research for national security. We should explore the creation of a national security science and technology strategy that improves: scientific resources available to decision makers; understanding of national security science and technology needs; coordination and collaboration among science and technology providers; control of dangerous technologies; and technology prioritization and acquisition processes. We must also consider how to establish better relationships with the S&T communities in the private sector and abroad and how to create a dialog on fruitful use of their technical research and products.

In the pursuit of the "right" policies, we must balance the degree of government's influence over research and development against the dangers of inhibiting the freedom and ingenuity of U.S. scientists and engineers, who have made this the most technologically adept and enabled nation in the world.

Four goals of the study are:

  • Document likely S&T trends and their impacts on national security over the next 20 years
  • Develop recommendations to optimize governmental employment of S&T in decision-making and influence of S&T research
  • Deliver a proposed national security S&T strategy, enabling policies, and an implementation plan
  • Consider effects of and influence on foreign R&D - European Perspective

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Study focuses on the technical and operational shortfalls surrounding the detection of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It explores the detection capabilities available as well as the relevant research and development being conducted throughout the federal labs and private sector facilities in the U.S. Out of this effort will emerge an identification of current gaps in detection capabilities and an agenda for future WMD detection investment.

Commissioned by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the study completed its second phase. The first phase of this project focused on gathering information on the shortcomings of the U.S. ability to detect WMD. Dr. David Kay, designed a methodical plan based on sound scientific methodology and techniques to determine the validity and extent of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. Then Potomac Institute staff member and former UN Weapons Inspector, Dr. Kay, traveled to Iraq to observe and analyze the post-war policing of the battlefield and the ongoing WMD detection efforts. There, he conducted interviews with U.S. forces and personnel engaged in weapon detection efforts. With the information gathered in these interviews, he presented a series of briefings to the U.S. government on the situation in Iraq. Immediately after Dr. Kay's briefing to the Intelligence Community, he was appointed a special advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and sent to Iraq to lead the WMD survey team. Dr. Kay has since rejoined the Potomac Institute.

Part of the Institute's study included a conference to bring together pertinent subject matter experts from the Department of Defense (DoD), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), and the Department of Energy (DOE), as well as former weapons inspectors and cutting-edge technologists. By aggregating the ideas and experiences of all these disciplines, a list of systemic process shortcomings and technology gaps were identified as problem areas within the detection process. Some of the shortfalls that were acknowledged included: the inability to analyze water, soil and air samples from a stand-off range; the difficulty in monitoring the movements of key personnel involved with the creation of WMD; and the problem of overcoming denial and deception techniques used by adversaries.

Phase II of the study focused on investigating what technologies are available or being developed that could aid the U.S. in the detection of WMD. The Potomac Institute visited the major national research facilities and met with researchers to gain knowledge of technologies in existence or under development/consideration that could aid detection efforts. It is the Institute's belief that we need to arm our decision makers and intelligence community with better tools to gain rich insights into what countries and terrorist groups are doing. This study hopes to start that process.

Project Events : The Potomac Institute held a WMD Detection conference on June 23, 2004 focusing on the problems faced by weapons inspectors operating in Iraq from 1991-2003. The outcome of this effort identified a number of key problems that are associated with the detection of WMD.

The Potomac Institute hosted a series of seminars bringing together top officials in the Intelligence Community to identify the necessary changes needed to fix the Intelligence Community.  With the deliberations within the Senate and House regarding Intelligence reform, the Potomac Institute felt that the public should have access to the seminar transcripts, as well as the recommendations, the Intelligence Community devised on reform through these seminars.   

Recommendation Letter written to Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Summary of Seminar 1: "Survey Intelligence Opportunities and Shortfalls"

Summary of Seminar 2: "Analytical Shortfalls"
Summary of Seminar 3: "Domestic Information Challenges and Tactical vs. National Requirements"


Project GUARDIAN examines policy issues associated with maintaining our civil liberties in the war on terror. This multidisciplinary effort provides a public forum to examine the information technologies that are useful in the war on terror. Project Guardian endeavors to provide practical and workable recommendations to policymakers for deployment of technologies that enhance the aggressive pursuit of terrorists while protecting our civil liberties.

As the nation seeks to protect itself from more terrorist strikes, new uses of technology to counter foreign terrorist threats may be needed. There are many new technologies that may reasonably help our government find terrorists as they operate in vast and perplexing arrays of information networks. Authorities are exploring the use of such advanced and emerging techniques to effectively deter terrorism through the use of detection, identification and interdiction. But it is of equal and fundamental importance that the privacy and constitutional rights of every American are protected in this process.

Seeking to find a balance between national security and civil liberties, the Potomac Institute has structured and conducted an informed, robust, non-partisan public debate that seeks reasonable solutions to the many competing issues that characterize this intriguing technological challenge.   Project GUARDIAN proposals have suggested new and creative ways to increase public confidence and Congressional oversight of new information technologies.  

As manager of the GUARDIAN project, Mr. Gallington has testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Technical and Policy Advisory Committee for the Department of Defense, has led numerous panels of distinguished experts, and published articles and papers on many different aspects of the tensions between privacy and security in the war on terrorism.

Biological terrorism is potentially so destructive that it now ranks as a strategic threat to the U.S., one that represents such potential widespread and profound suffering as to cause significant political consequences. While in office, President Clinton declared a state of national emergency regarding the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), and he issued Presidential Decision Directive 39 (PDD-39) and 62 setting out responsibilities to detect, defeat, prevent and manage the consequences of WMD terrorism. Within WMD, biological terrorism is of particular concern because of its unique combination of lethal effects, relative ease of manufacture, and possibility of covert deployment.

Seen as a strategic threat, the potential for biological terrorism raises critical issues of the proper relation between civilian and military sectors; federal, state and local authorities; and domestic and international affairs. This convergence needs to be explored to establish the best division of responsibility among the stakeholders, the preservation of civil liberties for Americans in a continuing situation that has some elements of both peace and warfare, and the policy and process issues that need to be identified, prioritized, and integrated into a cohesive national strategy.

The Potomac Institute has assembled noted researchers from many disciplines to address key aspects of biological terrorism, as well as publishing cutting edge research in this area. The Institute has conducted conferences with recognized experts, providing them a forum to discuss cross cutting issues and to begin to identify overall priority thrusts for policy and process initiatives needed to counter biological terrorism. We have also conducted a seminar wargame to prioritize operator needs and match them to appropriate technological advances. Our goal is to perform required research and to bring together technologists and policy makers to be able to limit U.S. vulnerability to the most critical national security threat of the 21st century. A selection of our content is presented below.

Briefings and Conferences

Resource Links

Study Director: Mr. David Siegrist

The Potomac Institute and the Stanley Foundation convened a cadre of experts in the fields of technology, military strategy, arms control, philosophers, and policy (including Dr. David Kay; Dr. Gordon Oehler; Dr. Albert Pierce; Michael Swetnam; Sharon Weinberger and Dr. Gerald Yonas) to consider the challenges of existing and future WMD regimes. 

Over the course of the day, participants discussed the potential development and consequences of “future weapons of mass destruction” from three distinct vectors—technical, strategic, and ethical—in an attempt to capture perspectives from a range of hard science, social science, and philosophical human endeavors. 

A conclusion:  “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do.”  All three—the W, the M, and the D—may need a complete definitional and conceptual overhaul.  A joint Policy Dialogue Brief of the event was prepared.  The contents break from the current and historical strictures imposed on thinking with regard to long-standing, mature WMD lines, and considers potential long-range impacts of today’s cutting-edge technology and political environments.  Threat and risk analyses play an increasingly important role as the WMD threat diversifies into innumerable possibilities from wide-ranging sectors, e.g. from satellite communications and neurotechnology to the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, and information technology.

Joint Potomac Institute/Stanley Policy Dialogue Brief

Symposium Examines Future Weapons of Mass Destruction

For additional information on the project contact, webmaster[at] potomacinstitute [dot] org.

On February 23rd and 24th, 2005, The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Virginia, hosted a two-day conference entitled “Stun Devices: Uncertainties and Gaps in Knowledge.” The conference was co-sponsored by Aegis Industries, Inc. The purpose of the conference was to bring together experts from various fields including medical and health effects, safety and regulatory issues, policy, and industry practices, to discuss what we know about stun device technology and offer insight and suggestions on filling the current gaps in knowledge.

The purpose of this report is to objectively evaluate the relative efficacy and safety of stun devices in the context of law enforcement use, and in the near absence of federal governmental attention.

Based on the available evidence, and on accepted criteria for defining product risk vs. efficacy, we believe that when stun technology is appropriately applied, it is relatively safe and clearly effective. No federal regulative body has asserted oversight of current non-lethal stun technology. As a result, there is insufficient guidance for public and private management.

Full Report

The transition of military Non-Lethal Technology (NLT) to traditional law enforcement and other stakeholders is not high-paced, nor organized optimally. The Institute investigated the efficiency and effectiveness of this transition process for what is now of course known as Homeland Security application. We initiated the program with a highly visible, funded project on electrical stun guns. The principal public concern of course with stun guns in particular, and NLT in general, is their perceived “lethality.” The Institute's project focused on the technical, policy, and indeed, public affairs issues associated with NLTs, specifically stun guns.

Press Coverage 

The Potomac Institute's report on stun devices has been widely cited in the media. (5/5/2005)

Potomac Institute President, Dr. Dennis K. McBride interview, KGNU Radio (5/3/05)
Discussed the results of Taser research.
You may hear that live broadcast via stream or download at KGNU's website, click on 2005-05-03.

Nantucket Island Inquirer: (4/28/2005)
"Police chief wants Tasers for officers"

Gailsburg Register Mail: (4/24/2005)
"Arguments for and Against Tasers"

Dallas Morning News (4/6/2005)

Press Enterprise (4/5/2005)

USA Today (4/4/2005)

Seattle Post-Intelligencer (4/4/2005)

Newsday (4/3/2005)

Des Moines Register (4/2/2005)

East Valley Tribune (4/1/2005)

Project Press Releases

For additional information on the project contact, Dr. Dennis K. McBride at 703.525.0770 or dmcbride [at] potomacinstitute [dot] org.



The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
Ballston Metro Center Office Towers
901 North Stuart Street, Suite 1200
Arlington, VA 22203
Tel 703.525.0770

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Our Mission

The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies is an independent, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit public policy research institute. The Institute identifies and aggressively shepherds discussion on key science and technology issues facing our society. From these discussions and forums, we develop meaningful science and technology policy options and ensure their implementation at the intersection of business and government.


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