Homeland research may miss out

Agencies are just starting their long-term homeland security research and development projects, but it won't be easy hiring the best and brightest from industry to help, said experts who testified before a House subcommittee May 10.

Many companies and researchers have shied away from federal R&D contracts, primarily because of the perception that the government has full rights to any information and products developed with federal funding.

This could end up hurting the government, which does less and less of its own research every year, said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee.

Most of the concern stems from the inflexibility of the laws governing intellectual property rights and a lack of understanding about protecting those rights, said Anthony Tether, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The primary legislation in this area is the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which outlines a uniform policy for federally sponsored research.

When crafting an R&D contract, many agency contracting officers often will put in more stringent controls than are necessary, causing private-sector partners to back away, said Jack Brock, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the General Accounting Office.

"Agencies are afraid of making a mistake, and because of that fear, they want all the intellectual property rights they can get," he said.

The Defense Department and several other agencies have more flexibility to bring in innovative companies and technologies, Tether said.


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