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Department of Homeland Security will have big S&T component. (From the Hill).

On November 25, after months of partisan debate over personnel rules, President Bush signed legislation establishing a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with the primary mission of preventing terrorist attacks within the United States. DHS will bring together nearly 170,000 federal employees and up to $35 billion in annual funding in the largest reorganization of the federal government since the 1940s.

The new department will have significant role in science and technology (S&T) related to homeland security. DHS will have its own S&T policy infrastructure as well as a significant research and development (R&D) portfolio, drawing on programs transferred from other agencies, as well as newly created programs.

The law creates an under secretary for science and technology, a provision absent from the Bush administration's original proposal, to serve as the head of a new S&T infrastructure. The under secretary, who will report directly to the secretary of homeland security, will be in charge of the Directorate of Science and Technology, one of four broad directorates in the new department. This directorate will have responsibility for setting R&D goals and priorities, coordinating homeland security R&D throughout the federal government, funding its own R&D programs, and facilitating the transfer and deployment of technologies for homeland security.

The under secretary will act as scientific and technical adviser to the secretary and will convene a Homeland Security Advisory Committee consisting of first responders, citizen groups, researchers, engineers, and businesses to provide S&T advice. DHS will create a new federally funded research and development center (FFRDC), the Homeland Security Institute, to act as a think tank for risk analyses, simulations of threat scenarios, analyses of possible countermeasures, and strategic plans for counterterrorism technology development.

The S&T directorate will also have an Office for National Laboratories to coordinate DHS interactions with Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories that have expertise in homeland security. The office will have the authority to establish a semi-independent DHS headquarters laboratory within an existing federal laboratory, national lab, or FFRDC.

The homeland security legislation directs DHS to establish one or more university-based centers for homeland security R&D, and includes 15 detailed criteria for where to locate it. It has been widely reported that House Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-Tex.) drafted the criteria in order to favor Texas A&M University. In order to win the support of senators opposed to what they saw as an uncompetitive earmark, incoming Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) worked with House leaders to issue a promise to amend the legislation in the next Congress to make competition for the center more open.

The S&T directorate will house a new research agency named the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA), modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the Department of Defense (DOD). HSARPA will award competitive, merit-reviewed grants in a wide spectrum of R&D, from basic research to prototyping new technology products. The legislation authorizes $500 million in fiscal year (FY) 2003 for the agency, but the actual appropriation will have to be decided as part of the FY 2003 budget process.

In addition to HSARPA, DHS will fold in existing R&D programs from DOE and the Departments of Agriculture and Transportation. Precise R&D funding figures are not yet available because of the vague parameters of the final legislation and because the FY 2003 budget process was left unfinished by the 107th Congress.

Although the original administration proposal envisioned a $3.4-billion R&D portfolio for DHS, the final legislation suggests a portfolio of up to $800 million. In contrast to the original proposal, the final legislation keeps federal bioterrorism R&D programs, which could total as much as $2 billion in FY 2003, within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) instead of transferring them to DHS. The homeland security secretary would, however, have joint authority with the HHS Secretary to set priorities for these programs.

Although DHS will have an enormous impact on the federal government and especially on goods and travelers crossing U.S. borders, the impact on scientists and engineers will be minimal. Few federal scientists and engineers will be affected. The new priority-setting powers of DHS, however, mean that NIH bioterrorism research priorities will be set with strong input from the new department.

Because the 107th Congress failed to complete the FY 2003 budget, all domestic programs are currently operating at FY 2002 funding levels. As a consequence, there is no money available to create new programs such as HSARPA unless funds can be shifted from existing programs. Congress hopes to finish work on FY 2003 appropriations in January, before DHS formally comes into existence, but it will be difficult to meet this goal. It may be months, then, before the new department has the necessary resources to begin organizing its S&T infrastructure.
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Publication:Issues in Science and Technology
Date:Dec 22, 2002
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