Feds Cast Eye Toward Nanotechnology

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2002-09-23

In its national strategy to secure cyberspace draft released last week, the Presidents Critical Infrastructure Protection Board named nanotechnology as having the potential to reshape cyberspace and its security. Meanwhile last week, a group of senators introduced legislation to increase federal research and development funding for the science of tiny particles.

Nanotechnology is widely considered nascent, but the federal government wants to make sure that the United States remains its primary guardian as it grows up. As the CIPB noted in its draft strategy, new technologies, including nanotechnology, can create unforeseen security consequences. To mitigate potential vulnerabilities exposed by rapid technological advances, the board recommended federally funded R&D to examine the security implications.

Last week, the Senate held the first-ever hearing on nano-technology, and Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and George Allen, R-Va., rolled out the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act. Wyden said that the technology has great potential for the economy, particularly in the fields of manufacturing, electronics, health care and agriculture.

The legislation would create a National Nanotechnology Research Program, which would bring together various agencies working on nano-scale research and coordinate their efforts.

In testimony delivered to the Senate Science, Technology and Space subcommittee, Stan Williams, director of quantum science research at Hewlett-Packard Co., in Palo Alto, Calif., cautioned against becoming overly enthusiastic with the pocketbook. "It would be a mistake to put too much money earmarked for nanotechnology too quickly into the research community, since it could not adjust and efficiently absorb that funding," Williams told lawmakers.

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