Immediately following the events of September 11, 2001, the National Academies (including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council) offered its services to the nation to formulate a scientific and technological response to the challenges posed by emerging terrorist threats that would seek to inflict catastrophic damage on the nation’s people, its infrastructure, or its economy. Specifically, it supported a project that culminated in a report entitled Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism (The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.) that was released on June 25, 2002. That project, chaired by Lewis M. Branscomb and Richard D. Klausner, sought to identify current threats of catastrophic terrorism, understand the most likely vulnerabilities in the face of these threats, and identify highly leveraged opportunities for contributions from science and technology to counterterrorism in both the near term and the long term.
Taking the material on information technology contained in Making the Nation Safer as a point of departure, the Committee on the Role of Information Technology in Responding to Terrorism, identical to the Panel on Information Technology that advised the Branscomb-Klausner committee, drew on sources, resources, and analysis unavailable to that committee during the preparation of its report. In addition, the present report contains material and elaborations that the Branscomb-Klausner committee did not have time to develop fully for the parent report. Both reports are aimed at spurring research in the science and technology communities to counter and respond to terrorist acts such as those experienced on September 11.