Science and technology are global enterprises. This presents both opportunities and challenges in developing S&T policy through the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). The internationalization of science offers many exciting opportunities, since some of today's most difficult scientific and technological problems cannot be solved by the United States (or any country) acting alone. The intellectual and financial resources needed to address such issues as protecting the environment, developing sustainable energy sources, or identifying the fundamental structure of the Universe, can only be mustered on the basis of international cooperation. Many parts of the U.S. scientific agenda inherently require international cooperation, for example, the study of the causes and effects of global climate change. Other parts of the agenda naturally invite collaboration because of unique foreign expertise or facilities.
American scientists and engineers are playing a vital role in addressing some of the most pressing global problems that, in the long run, can represent a threat to the United States: environmental degradation, new and re-emerging diseases, rapid population growth and food scarcity. International engagement also allows American scientists and engineers to become familiar with foreign technology, and to help establish the basis for the export of American technology-based products and services.
Participation in international collaborative projects, particularly in technologies with defense and economic applications, requires careful analysis, planning and interagency coordination. On one hand, higher levels of international cooperation support continuing U.S. leadership in S&T. On the other hand, this cooperation must serve the national interest: the advancement of U.S. economic competitiveness, global stability, sustainable development and other elements of national security.
Unlike most of the other eight NSTC Committees, CISET's mandate is not defined within any particular area of science or technology. The technical agencies of the U.S. government engage in a wide range of bilateral and multilateral international scientific programs that support their missions. The role of CISET is to review these activities, and to identify opportunities for international cooperation and interagency coordination in response to new needs and opportunities. In addition, CISET serves as a forum for establishing government policy on specific problems and issues that arise in the international S&T arena.
CISET has formed subcommittees in three areas: (1) international budget priorities, (2) opportunities and obstacles in international cooperation, (3) science, technology and global issues. The subcommittees have undertaken the following activities:
Within a month of his inauguration, President Clinton articulated a strong commitment to continued American excellence in science and technology. In the document Technology for America's Economic Growth, A New Direction to Build Economic Strength, the President enumerated his top priorities, among them "International science and technology cooperative projects that enhance U.S. access to foreign sources of science and technology, contribute to the management of global problems, and provide the basis for marketing U.S. goods and services." The CISET process was established to assist in the practical implementation of the President's policy. In its first year of operation, CISET has provided an interagency forum for reviewing, coordinating and facilitating federally-funded international R&D.