Reps. Adam Smith (WA-09) and Brian Baird (WA-03) today co-chaired a joint subcommittee hearing between the House Science Committee and House Armed Services Committee to examine the role social and behavioral sciences can play in meeting our national security needs. Rep. Smith, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities, and Rep. Baird, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education, led the effort to explore opportunities for collaboration between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in utilizing this scientific research to help soldiers serving in new combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The fight to stop the spread of terrorism is in large part a struggle to understand and work with local populations.  Our special operations forces and other military and civilian personnel work in dozens of countries and across many different cultures, and understanding the particulars of each is of enormous importance if we are to deny al-Qaida and other groups safe haven.  These interactions are a big component of American ‘soft power,’ and the more skilled and informed we become in this context, the better we will be able to root out insurgencies and terrorists.  Today’s hearing was an opportunity for our subcommittees to learn more about the role social and behavioral sciences can play in our national security,” Smith said.

“Our country has invested billions of dollars in mapping the physical terrain of combat zones based on the recognition that it would be foolhardy to send our soldiers into unknown terrain because it would endanger our soldiers and their mission,” said Chairman Baird.  “What I find so encouraging and interesting about today’s hearing is the recognition that human terrain, which we may not be able to map by satellite or GPS, is just as important to the success of our mission, the survival of our soldiers, and the people were trying to protect.”

During the joint hearing, members explored how NSF research in the social and behavioral sciences can help the nation achieve its national security goals, including empowering soldiers or combat units to adapt and maneuver in foreign cultures and stressful situations. The Subcommittees also examined what new tools, technologies and training programs researchers can use to help soldiers adapt to the current irregular warfare environment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Subcommittee Members heard testimony from the following witnesses: Dr. André van Tilborg, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Science and Technology, Department of Defense; Colonel Martin Schweitzer, Commander 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division; Dr. Mark Weiss, Division Director for Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences & Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, National Science Foundation; Dr. David Segal, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Research on Military Organization, University of Maryland.

Today’s military witness, Col. Schweitzer, highlighted an example of the practical application of this research in an operational setting.  Col. Schweitzer recently returned from Afghanistan, where he worked with a Human Terrain Team (HTT), which places civilian and uniformed scientists on the ground in order to provide soldiers with better knowledge of the culture in which they are operate.

For more information on this hearing or to access witness testimony, visit the Committee’s website:

Reps. Adam Smith and Brian Baird

Armed Services hearing panel