Magazine article National Defense

DHS Research and Development under Scrutiny

Magazine article National Defense

DHS Research and Development under Scrutiny

Article excerpt

* There are 35 cases of overlapping research-and-development programs totaling about $66 million at the Department of Homeland Security, the Government Accountability Office has found.

There is a lack of visibility on who is working on what projects across the 22 agencies, Dave Maurer, GAO director of homeland security and justice issues, testified on Capitol Hill.

In many cases, one agency was working on similar studies without necessarily being informed of the others research, he said.

"It is hard to be strategic and have a good perspective on what you're spending your money on if you don't have good visibility of who's doing what. And it's really important that the taxpayers are getting the most out of every single one of those dollars," Maurer said before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Within DHS, the science and technology directorate oversees and coordinates R&D throughout the homeland security apparatus. However, research efforts were found to be fragmented across the department. One problem is that the department lacks a common definition for what R&D actually is, Maurer said.

"Having a common definition for such a large organization as DHS will help enable better strategic visibility over R&D activities," he added.

DHS spends more than $1 billion a year annually on R&D activities and in 2011, GAO identified an additional $255 million in R&D activity that wasn't captured in the standard documents provided to Congress, Maurer said.

Sen. Thomas Carper, D-DeL, chairman of the committee, called the directorate "a key part of the Department of Homeland Security's efforts." It is critical for the division to work aggressively and effectively with the other components of the department and first responders to find solutions that allow DHS and its partners to operate more efficiently even with a diminishing budget, he said. …

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