Panel OK's Homeland tech post

The House Science Committee underscored the importance of technology in the fight against terrorism by voting June 10 to create an undersecretary for science and technology in the proposed Homeland Security Department.

The new post would be responsible for coordinating science and technology activities throughout the department and funding research and development for the new agency.

The House panel also created a new council for R&D that would be composed of all the undersecretaries in the department to set research priorities. And it backed the creation of a Homeland Security Institute to provide independent, technical and policy analysis to the department.

"Our enemies rely on technology to attack us from the shadows. Mobilizing our nation's best scientific and technical minds to work on countering that threat is the best way to provide people a measure of security," said Rep. Ralph Hall (D-Texas) the committee's ranking Democrat and co-sponsor of the legislation, the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

"By forming a Cabinet-level post to look after homeland security, we take the right steps to protect all American citizens. — The science and technology infrastructure in our nation plays a crucial role in keeping all Americans safe," said Rep. Felix Grucci Jr. (R-N.Y.).

The committee also:

* Approved a measure to transfer the Hazard Support System to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where the satellite system will not only detect forest fires but permit the homeland security agency to monitor potential hazards before they threaten U.S. security.

* Blocked the transfer of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's computer security division, keeping it at NIST.

The committee approved the legislation on a voice vote. It now goes to the Select Homeland Security Committee, set up to handle various pieces of legislation approved by at least 10 House committees.

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