Box: Timely Hurricane Warnings Save Lives, Property

Improvements in the science and technology of weather observation and analysis time have significantly decreased the number of hurricane-related deaths, particularly since the middle of this century. The combination of meteorological research, supercomputers, satellite observations, sophisticated image processing, and vastly improved communications technology has enhanced our early warning capability along with the accuracy of our daily forecasts.

Hurricane Andrew in 1992, for example, was tracked from the moment it came off the coast of Africa. Recognition of the storm's increasing strength resulted in a hurricane warning for the south Florida coast at 8 a.m. Sunday, August 23. Andrew struck Dade County, Florida, at 3:49 a.m. Monday. During the warning, radio and television stations devoted air time to tracking the storm, relaying official bulletins, discussing its potential severity, and providing guidance on preparation and evacuation.

The majority of Dade County residents reported that they had sufficient warning to prepare for the storm and that television had been their principal source of information. Early warning allowed almost 750,000 people to evacuate the area. The impact of the hurricane was catastrophic, estimated at $30 billion in property damage. Remarkably, however, only 15 deaths were directly attributed to Andrew, despite the huge number of people at risk.

Environmental technologies are the bridge to a stronger economy and sustainable future. We are working with industry to: (1) develop more cost-effective remediation technologies, thus decreasing current cleanup costs at government and industrial facilities; (2) decrease future cleanup costs by emphasizing pollution avoidance; and (3) reduce market and government inefficiencies that prevent the diffusion of environmental technologies. Federal environmental technology programs are improving U.S. economic competitiveness in a growing international market, while providing for more effective environmental protection and more efficient resource use. These investments will help U.S. industry capture a larger share of the annual global market for environmental technologies, currently estimated at about $300 billion, and predicted to grow to over $400 billion by 1997. The payoff will show up in a cleaner environment and in high-wage jobs; for every $1 billion in exports, it is estimated that 17,000 new jobs will be created.

The Administration's comprehensive strategy for environmental research and development is focused on 7 main issues: air quality; biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics; global change; natural disasters; resource use and management; toxic substances and hazardous waste; and water resources. In each area, we are supporting research to help answer the following policy-relevant questions:

In addition to broad support for these main issues in the environment and natural resources, our strategy identifies five high-priority research areas that cut across existing efforts and require increased emphasis. Important gaps exist in our understanding of the natural environment, the impacts of human activities on the environment, and the influences of environmental change on human (both biological and social) and ecological systems. To address these questions, increased near-term efforts are needed in the following areas:

Economic growth and job creation. Our Nation faces significant economic challenges. Markets are global, competition is fierce, technological change is swift and unabating. Meeting these challenges requires a strategy to equip American companies and workers to compete successfully in the 21st century economy.

Technology policy is a linchpin in this strategy. A full partnership between government and the private sector is needed to enhance the role that technology plays in promoting competitiveness, creating high-wage jobs, and fostering sustainable development. Sometimes this requires that government get out of the way -- by reducing unnecessary export controls and reinventing more effective, less burdensome regulation. And sometimes the government must partner with industry to help build the nation's 21st century technological infrastructure and to advance high-risk, high-payoff technologies that are the foundation for future prosperity.

Several elements are involved: continuing our historic commitment to support of basic science, which is the ultimate foundation for all technological advance; creating a climate that fosters private sector innovation and commercialization; supporting industry-led technology development partnerships; facilitating the deployment of technology; leveraging commercial and dual-use technologies to meet defense needs; and promoting the infrastructure that supports the private economy -- including the nation's traditional transportation system and the new information superhighway.

Creating a climate that fosters private sector innovation and commercialization. Our national technology policy must address the broad range of factors that affect U.S. companies' ability to develop technology, turn innovations into products and services, and bring them to global markets. Continued emphasis on debt reduction is a must, to free up capital for private sector investment in research and development, plant and equipment, and new or expanding businesses. Other issues include tax policies that encourage innovation, including extension of the research and experimentation tax credit; reform of regulatory barriers to innovation, while safeguarding the environmental and health goals that are the object of regulation; reducing outdated Cold War export controls; and strengthening intellectual property protection.

Support for industry-led technology development partnerships. Programs such as the Advanced Technology Program and the Technology Reinvestment Project are a small part -- less than 2 percent -- of the total federal research and development investment. But these programs are a crucial link between the $73 billion federally funded science and technology base and industry's own investments (estimated at $107 billion for 1995) to take technology to the market place. These programs support longer term, riskier, and infrastructural technologies, not product development. Awards are made on the basis of rigorous competitive processes -- not political decisions. And industry contributes at least half the costs of the projects, thus ensuring that they are driven by market needs.

In addition to these programs, the government is partnering with industry in a variety of industry-led research and development initiatives, including microelectronics, electronics manufacturing, aeronautics, and biotechnology. Many of these initiatives combine goals of competitiveness, economic growth, and job creation with public benefits of environmental protection, improved health and safety, and less dependence on foreign sources of energy. The Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles and the Building and Construction initiatives are examples.

Box: The Building and Construction Initiative

Construction is one of the nation's largest industries, with employment of 6 million and a total yearly value of close to $800 billion, yet U.S. building technology lags behind that of foreign countries and the incidence of injury in construction work is among the highest of all industries.

The federal government's goal is to develop better construction technologies to improve the competitive performance of the U.S. industry, raise the life cycle performance of buildings, and protect public safety and the environment. The initiative responds to a high level of industry interest and combines government and industry goals. We will work with industry to achieve by 2003:

Seven areas of research have been identified as important contributors to achieving the goals: information and decision technologies; automation of design, construction, and operation; high performance materials, components, and systems; environmental quality; risk reduction technologies; performance standards systems; and human factors. This initiative is dedicated to removing barriers to innovation, as well as putting greater emphasis on research and development and aligning government programs appropriately with industry needs.

Facilitating the rapid deployment of civilian technologies. Stimulating the development of innovative technologies is only part of the equation. Another essential part is to make sure that all U.S. industry, including the small and medium sized firms that are the foundation of American manufacturing, get access to efficient, up-to-date production methods. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership operated by NIST in the Department of Commerce is a grassroots effort to improve the competitiveness of the nation's 370,000 smaller manufacturers. Currently, the network includes 44 centers; the goal is to create a national network of 100 centers able to meet the needs of America's smaller manufacturers.

Building a 21st century infrastructure. Development of the National Information Infrastructure (NII) and the emerging Global Information Infrastructure (GII) is a top priority. These initiatives will promote a stronger economy, more competitive businesses, more efficient government, better education, and technological leadership. Discussion of private sector efforts to construct the NII and GII, and the government's role as a catalyst for development, are described below, in the section on Information Technologies.

Also of prime importance to economic growth in the next century are continued investments in more traditional infrastructure. For example, throughout most of this century, NIST's laboratory research program has provided essential support for virtually every industrial sector, in such areas as measurement methods and technologies, standards, data evaluation, and testing and quality assurance techniques. Investments in these "infratechnologies" will be even more vital to the Information Age of the 21st century.

A renewed, efficient transportation system is also essential. Our highway, air, and rail systems have given Americans the benefits of flexibility, low cost, and personal freedom, but they are in urgent need of renewal. A coordinated public and private research and development effort should meet these objectives for our future transportation needs:

Box: The Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV)