Magazine article National Defense

DHS Technology Budget to Exceed $1B in 2005

Magazine article National Defense

DHS Technology Budget to Exceed $1B in 2005

Article excerpt

An array of emerging technologies is the key to defending the United States from its enemies, according to Charles E. McQueary, undersecretary of homeland security for science and technology.

Developing those technologies is the mission of the S&T division of the Department of Homeland Security. McQueary has led the division since the Department's founding in March 2003.

Since the division stood up a year ago, the staff has increased from 60 to more than 200 "very capable, professional people, and we're not through yet," McQueary told National Defense.

The S&T budget has grown by $126.5 million--nearly 14 percent--to a requested $1.03 billion in 2005.

With those resources, S&T has accomplished "a great deal in a short amount of time," McQueary said, ticking off these examples:

Creating S&T infrastructure. The division has established a homeland security laboratory system--including national laboratories of the Energy Department, DHS agencies, and other organizations across the country--to research better ways to defeat terrorism.

The division also created an office of weapons of mass destruction operations and incident management to provide scientific and technical support in assessing and responding to threats.

S&T took over management of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center on Long Island, N.Y. The center, which previously had been run by the Agriculture Department, focuses on protecting the nation from "agricultural terrorism," McQueary said. Plum Island scientists conduct research to protect U.S. livestock against potentially disastrous foreign animal illnesses, such as foot and mouth disease, he said.

In February, McQueary convened the first meeting of the homeland security science and technology committee, which was established to provide independent planning advice to the division.

Partnering with industry. During the past year, S&T awarded $6.5 million to 66 small companies in 23 states to fund projects addressing the department's high-priority technological interests.

In April, HSARPA announced that more than a dozen teams had been selected to negotiate for $48 million in contracts to develop next-generation biological detection sensors and systems.

Next-generation scientists. Currently, S&T is reviewing applications for the 2004-2005 class of DHS's scholars and fellows program, McQueary said. Last September 100 students--chosen from more than 2,400 applicants--were named to the inaugural class.

"The program supports U.S. students who choose to pursue scientific careers and perform research in fields that are essential to the homeland security mission," McQueary explained. Selections for the 2004-2005 class should be announced sometime in the May-June timeframe, he said.

S&T has established a homeland security centers program to foster mission-relared research and education at universities around the nation, McQueary said. The University of Southern California in November was named as the first homeland security center of excellence.

With the title comes $12 million during the next three years to study risk analysis related to the economic consequences of terrorist threats and events. DHS plans to establish two more centers in coming months, one focusing on animal-related agro-terrorism and another on post-harvest food security.

International partners. S&T officials have established working relationships with counterparts from several foreign governments, including the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan, Canada and Mexico. Workshops are scheduled with additional foreign delegations to explore areas.

In October, DHS Secretary Tom Ridge and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister John Manley initialed an S&T cooperative agreement for protecting shared critical infrastructure and enhancing border security. In response to this agreement, S&T researchers are working with the Canadians to develop technologies to protect bridges, dams, pipelines, communications and power grids, enhance the ability to disrupt and interdict terrorists through surveillance and monitoring, and detect the smuggling of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. …

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