Department of Energy Moving on Security Initiatives

Article excerpt

Several programs meant to enhance national security are being developed and run by the Department of Energy, trying to reduce the chance of a nuclear or radiological attack within the United States.

The proposed federal budget for 2006 includes large increases in programs and research for homeland defense. For example, the 2006 budget proposed a massive increase in the "Megaports" initiative, providing radiation detection equipment to international partners to screen cargo containers bound for the United States. An increase of $59 million, raising the program's 2006 budget to $74 million, is being requested.

That money will be spent to establish the program in five ports by the end of fiscal year 2006, doubling the number sought by the end of this year, according to Linton Brooks, the administrator of the national nuclear security administration. Megaports supports the DHS's Container Security Initiative, which positions U.S. screeners at major foreign ports to help facilitate cargo screening.

Another budgetary increase is intended to enhance the safety of U.S.-owned nuclear materials in transit. Amid worries that components of nuclear weapons or reactors would be targeted for hijack or attack, the DOE is asking for $212.1 million for securing their transportation. This is a 6.2 percent increase in 2005's operating budget. Brooks explained that the increase would be dedicated to an increase in federal agents, as well as construction of specially designed transport vehicles to enhance security of the materials. …