The Honorable Neal Lane
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology


December 8, 1999

Good morning.  It's a pleasure to be with you today.  Forensic science is a new field for me.  I got my first real exposure to this field last August, when Duncan Moore and I visited Barry Fisher at the Crime Laboratory in Los Angeles County.  I am convinced that advances in forensic science and technology are among the best ways to meet the President's commitment to reduce crime in this country.

As you know, this Administration has emphasized crime fighting and crime reduction.  We have increased the numbers of police officers on the streets, and we have provided more research and resources for law enforcement technology.

Improvements in manpower and technology deserve much of the credit for the fact that crime rates have been reduced from their peak in the early 1990s.  But, as the Washington Post pointed out this Sunday, crime rates
still exceed those of the 1970s - so we all have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure science and technology make their full contributions to further reductions in crime.

I know that you folks are near the front lines in the fight against crime.  And I know that the demands on you far exceed the resources available to you.  I appreciate the dedication and diligence of the forensic science community.  Forensic science is a critical element of law enforcement.

I regret that more people don't know about the efforts of forensic scientists and crime laboratory personnel.  I find it absolutely remarkable, for instance, that you have applied the advances made in DNA research not only to secure convictions but also to free the innocent.  You deserve the highest praise for helping to build the community confidence vital to a civil society.

You've also achieved impressive results with application of information technologies.  Systems to track fingerprints and firearms - AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) and DRUGFIRE - are working extremely well.  But we're far from tapping the full potential of IT.  Think of the possibilities for databases that improve our ability to detect and analyze trace evidence, such as fibers and paints.  And you know, based on your own needs assessments, that improved modeling and simulation tools are essential to understanding how fire and explosions spread and grow.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy wants to help you make these advances.  We believe it is critical for our nation's crime laboratories to obtain the resources needed to continue reductions in crime and to make our streets and homes safer.

So, with regard to Federal resources, I wanted to join you today to share some of my experience with building interagency budget initiatives - efforts that require many agencies with disparate interests to cooperate in a common cause.  This Administration's most successful budget initiatives - the ones that make it through the Congress and go on to produce the best results - are the
products of grassroots efforts and they are difficult to pull off.  They succeed when personnel most knowledgeable in this field, such as you, design a research and development plan and then work together to push that program forward.

You should also be aware that this Administration and this Congress are very focused on results.  We no longer measure progress in terms of "dollars in."  Before investments are made, we need to see a plan for how resources will be used, where they will be applied, what we should expect to get from the investment, and when.  That last point is difficult but we do the best we can, the best plans include training as an integral part of the program.

Typically the plan is prerequisite to funding in this era of strict budgeting.  This meeting presents an opportunity for you to begin work on the plan that can help secure the funding we know you need.

You're the experts.  We need for you to show us that there is agreement in technology needs assessments, to identify "best practices" currently in use, to address training issues, and to provide a "roadmap" from investment to outcomes for forensic science and technology.  Bottom line:  we need for you to provide a national forensic framework that will help OSTP help you.  I know that Duncan Moore and Jerry Howell will be having lunch with you tomorrow, and I hope you can share some of your preliminary results with them at that time.

Thank you again for inviting me here today.  I greatly admire the work that you do.  And I hope we can collaborate on a strategic plan that can provide the basis for increased funding for your work.

Office of Science and Technology Policy
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W
Washington, DC 20502
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