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Technologies for the Warfighter and Industry

Thank you, Admiral Johnston, for that kind introduction, and my thanks also to you and to Mike Redshaw of the Patuxent Partnership for inviting me to join you today.

As someone who worked for many years on both the private-sector side and the government side of the defense industry, I fully appreciate the important work you are doing to ensure our nation's security at home and abroad.

I recently heard the 20th Century called "The American Century," largely because of our many science and technology discoveries and breakthroughs. U.S. scientists, engineers and high-tech workers -
including many of you in this room – continue to generate new products and make stunning advances in technology every day.

These advances underpin our economic growth and gains in industrial performance, drive improvements in national security capabilities, and contribute to progress in almost everything you can think of, from health care to agriculture, education to energy, transportation to the environment, and much, much more.

Technological innovation has underpinned sustained periods of economic growth, higher rates of investment, low inflation, high-wage job growth, low unemployment, and solid increases in productivity.

And, this progress continues today – with a new urgency and new purpose.

The events of September 11th and their aftermath have taught us more about ourselves and our nation. We have witnessed the incredible courage of fire fighters and police officers; the bravery and sacrifice of our men and women in the military; and the generosity and decency of our fellow citizens.

As horrible as these events were, they have accomplished the opposite of their intent. They have awakened the greatness of America and have led to a renewal of patriotic spirit and a shared sense of purpose – the security of our nation.

President Bush and the entire Administration, including the Department of Commerce, are committed to strengthening American leadership in science and technology and hastening the flow of new knowledge, new capabilities, and new products.

Commerce Secretary Don Evans recently said, "President Bush recognizes how important technology is, has been, and will be to our nation's long-term economic and national security and prosperity."

The nation's technology resources – government and private industry working together – are going to play a vital role in helping the United States win the war on terrorism, strengthen our homeland security, and improve our economic security and growth and global competitiveness.

Thanks to technology, we can put the world's finest tools in the hands of our military, law enforcement and public safety personnel, the intelligence community, and others who are fighting the forces of evil around the world.

At the same time, advanced technologies significantly reduce the risk to American men and women serving their country.

It is no accident that the United States leads the world in high technology-both civilian and defense. Our achievements flow from sustained public and private-sector investments in research and development-coupled with America's entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to take risks.

While the private sector must take the lead, the federal government has an important role to play in ensuring that the United States is on the leading edge of technology and competitive in the world's high-tech markets.

  • At the Commerce Department, the Technology Administration's Office of Technology Policy is developing and advocating national policies and initiatives that use technology to build America's economic strength.
  • The Office of Technology Policy:
  • Promotes innovation through leadership and advocates policies that encourage research, development, and commercialization of new technologies such as nanotechnology and biotechnology.
  • Represents the interests of U.S. innovators and entrepreneurs in multinational forums and works with states, localities, and federal labs to institute policies that promote technology-led economic development.
  • Improves the innovation infrastructure by contributing to the development of national workforce policies that improve the education and training of future scientists and engineers.
  • And empowers citizens by working with industry to increase consumer confidence and employ technologies – such as telemedicine and e-government – in new ways for greater productivity and higher standards of living.
  • The Office also works to encourage more students to pursue careers in science and technology through the GetTech public-private partnership.

Now, I'd like to explain the role of my home base – the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology – in helping to ensure America's homeland security and economic security.

Since 1901, NIST has contributed to the technological and scientific advances that led to "The American Century."

NIST works closely with the private sector to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards that U.S. industry needs for new and improved products and services. With 100 years of success, NIST is the only federal agency with this mission.

Over the past century, NIST researchers have helped to lay the foundation for the innovation, economic growth, and quality of life that have made the United States the world's most prosperous nation. You would be hard pressed to think of some part of modern-day life that is not affected, directly or indirectly, by the research, products and services of NIST.

In times of national or other emergencies, NIST scientists and engineers have stepped forward with a vast array of expertise and knowledge in areas as diverse as the physics of fire to forensic DNA typing.

Since its beginning, NIST has worked closely with our nation's law enforcement, military and emergency agencies.

In fact, in the early 1900s, NIST was the principal U.S. crime laboratory and helped investigate the kidnapping of aviator Charles Lindbergh's baby. When the FBI hired its first scientist in 1932, NIST experts helped establish the new crime lab.

During World War II, NIST provided technical advice on everything from the atom bomb to the paper used in war maps. NIST also has extensive expertise and experience in investigating structural failures - including the 1981 collapse of a walkway in the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel and the 1986 Dupont Plaza Hotel fire in San Juan.

Continuing in that role, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, NIST scientists and engineers are working on more than 75 ongoing and new projects to help officials in military, law enforcement, emergency, airport and building security, and other agencies protect the American public from terrorist threats.

In one of the major new activities, NIST is preparing to lead a broad public-private partnership to investigate the probable causes of the World Trade Center collapse, the worst building disaster in human history. Engineers, emergency responders, and the nation did not anticipate, and were largely unprepared, for such a catastrophe.

The lessons we could learn from a broad investigation will help protect existing and future buildings and people and enhance the safety of fire and emergency responders.

  • Let me tell you what we propose to determine in our investigation. We want to know:
  • Why and how the World Trade Center buildings collapsed following the plane impacts;
  • Why the number of injuries was high-or low-depending on location. We plan to study all technical aspects of fire protection, response, evacuation, and occupant behavior and emergency response.
  • Whether or not state-of-the-art procedures and practices were used in the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the World Trade Center buildings; and
  • What emerging technologies or procedures should be used in the future to reduce the potential risks of similar structural failures.

In our role as structural and fire expert, NIST also is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers to review and evaluate the performance of the Pentagon's structural system during a fire, the ability of its heating and ventilating system to control smoke movement, and the response of its fire protection systems to the attack and subsequent fires.

Finding new and better ways of detecting weapons, conventional and otherwise, is another current NIST activity.

Researchers at NIST's laboratories in Boulder, Colorado, are developing a new technology using low-energy, millimeter-size electromagnetic waves to detect weapons such as knives, guns, and plastic explosives hidden under a person's clothing.

Other NIST projects are aimed at creating new, portable measurement devices that can detect agents such as sulfur-mustard gas compounds, the deadly sarin and other nerve agents, and explosive compounds.

In particular, we are working with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency on the creation of micro-sensor arrays that use selective thin films and mini-heaters embedded in integrated circuits to identify chemical agents at the part-per-million level.

In a project for the U.S. Army, NIST is verifying the accuracy of test equipment used to determine if a soldier's gas mask is protecting properly.

  • Further examples of NIST research activities to support homeland security include:
  • Improving technologies and standards for identifying individuals using techniques such as DNA analysis, fingerprinting, and face recognition,
  • Developing a suite of national chemical and biological protective equipment standards to help better protect emergency responders; and
  • Providing the strongest-yet encryption standard for protecting sensitive information from terrorists, spies, criminals and hackers.

While our work to help make our nation safer is certainly a priority, I would like to take a few minutes to talk about a wide array of other research that is making a difference for U.S. industry, American society, and our economy.

Last summer, NIST researchers uncovered a potentially serious optical problem affecting the design of future generations of semiconductor manufacturing equipment already on the drawing board.

The timely warning has allowed the semiconductor industry to develop technical solutions to the problem and avoid costly design errors, potentially saving millions of dollars.

In conjunction with the Video Electronics Standards Association, NIST spearheaded an international flat-panel display measurement standard that specifies how performance measures such as contrast ratios or color measurements for flat-panel displays should be conducted.

By using the standard, the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, successfully switched from traditional radiographs - X-ray photo images viewed on light panels - to digital images on flat-panel displays, saving at least $1.5 million annually.

In a project that began in 1999, NIST is working with the Naval Surface Warfare Center and the Naval Foundry and Propeller Center to reduce the time it takes to produce submarine propulsion components from about 12 months to four.

NIST is providing tools and research to probe, manipulate, and ultimately, master the world of nanotechnology.

NIST researchers built a highly-directional atom laser from a Bose-Einstein condensate, an exotic form of matter, that will have applications in semiconductor manufacturing, holography, and navigation.

The Bose-Einstein condensate was first achieved in 1995 by NIST's Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman of the University of Colorado. They shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics-giving NIST its second Nobel Prize in five years.

Two of our newest programs – the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Advanced Technology Program – are less than 15 years old, but both are having a dramatic influence on U.S. companies and our nation's economy.

  • Let me give you an example.
  • Garrett Metal Detectors of Garland, Texas, is a small manufacturer of security equipment to airports, law enforcement agencies, schools and sporting venues - including the Olympic games.
  • After Sept. 11, requests for Garrett's metal-detecting equipment skyrocketed, to the point where the company was having trouble coping with demand.
  • The Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center, an affiliate of NIST's Manufacturing Extension Partnership, stepped in and helped Garrett reduce cycle time by 75 percent while increasing production by more than 300 percent.
  • The NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership – or M E P – has centers in all 50 states, including Maryland, to help small manufacturers become more efficient, productive, and competitive.
  • MEP's clients across the country are seeing powerful, bottom-line impacts:
  • Nearly $2.3 billion in new or retained sales;
  • Over $480 million in cost savings,
  • More than $870 million in new investments, and
  • More than 25,500 jobs created or retained.

The goal of the Advanced Technology Program is to benefit the U.S. economy by cost-sharing research with industry to foster new, innovative technologies.

The ATP invests in sometimes risky, always challenging technologies that have the potential for a big pay-off for the nation's economy.

These technologies create opportunities for new, world-class products, services and industrial processes, benefiting not just the ATP participants, but other companies and industries – and ultimately consumers and taxpayers – as well.

By reducing the early-stage R&D risks for individual companies, the ATP enables industry to pursue promising technologies which otherwise would be ignored or developed too slowly to compete in rapidly changing world markets.

Let me give you a few brief examples of successful ATP projects:

  • Six top U.S. printed wiring board suppliers and users teamed to achieve literally dozens of technical advances that have been credited by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences with saving the U.S. printed wiring board industry with its 200,000 jobs.
  • Strongwell Corporation developed protoype bridge beams made of carbon- and glass-reinforced polymer composites that are lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and expected to improve bridge durability and outlast conventional steel and concrete.
  • Engineering Animation grew their company from 20 employees to over 400 after they developed a new set of computer-based technologies for making 3-D training tools to help surgeons and patients better understand important aspects of surgical procedures before they are performed.

Another of NIST's very young, but perhaps most visible, programs is the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation's highest honor in quality and performance excellence.

Established in 1987 to improve performance in U.S. organizations, the Baldrige program is a public-private partnership managed by NIST. Awards are presented by the President to organizations that have substantially benefited the economic or social well-being of the United States through improvements in performance excellence.

Just a little over a week ago, I watched President Bush present the Baldrige Award to the newest winners, including, for the first time, education organizations.

For those of you who are skeptical about whether a quality program will make a difference in the way you do business, at the Baldrige Award ceremony Commerce Secretary Don Evans announced that, for the eighth year in a row, the "Baldrige Index" has outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500.

The Baldrige Index is a hypothetical stock fund made up of publicly traded U.S. companies that received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

In making the announcement, Secretary Evans said, "While performance in the stock market is only one indicator of success, this study and others show that businesses that seek excellence in everything they do can achieve success in many areas, including the bottom line."

One of the reasons I was so excited about coming to speak to you is to give you the message that technology is profoundly important to this President, this Administration, and, in particular, to the Department of Commerce.

I hope that message came through loud and clear.

I also never pass up an opportunity to talk about the wonderful science and technology taking place at NIST and to offer whatever expertise we can provide to help you do your job better.

I urge you to visit us – either through our web site, WWW.NIST.GOV – or in person at our campus in Gaithersburg.

If innovation and new technologies shaped the 20th century into the American Century, they are going to define the 21st.

Our ability to create new technologies and harness their power and promise will directly affect our national prosperity, security and global influence.

Working together, we can be sure that America will continue to be the world's technological leader.

Thank you.

Created October 13, 2009, Updated October 24, 2016