Homeland R&D report drafted

PCAST

Research and development for homeland security science and technology issues should be handled at the highest level of the proposed department, which must look at R&D differently than any other federal organization, according to a draft approved Aug. 5 by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

The report outlines the private sector's take on how the proposed Homeland Security Department should be organized to take advantage of R&D funds. After a comment period, the report will be given to President Bush through the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which oversees PCAST.

"I think the report has come out nicely, and it will be a good starting point," said John Marburger III, director of OSTP. "I know the president is looking forward to it."

The report recommends a single undersecretary for science and technology who would be responsible for the R&D strategy and budget, from concept development to product implementation.

Managerial flexibility is key for the entire department, but even more important for R&D functions as science and technology change every day, according to the report.

"The importance of allowing creativity to flourish cannot be overstated," the report states. "Highly unusual interdisciplinary work will be required. The R&D functions of [the Homeland Security Department] should operate so as to promote such nonconventional scientific collaboration.

As part of this, the PCAST recommendations include creating an independent advisory body for the undersecretary, an organization that would function much the same as a federally funded R&D center. It would assist with systems analysis, support systems engineering and perform tests to find flaws that need to be researched or gaps in existing solutions.

Under the undersecretary, the report recommends creating other organizations, all of which would need similar managerial flexibility, including:

* A homeland security national laboratory, focused on high-payoff but high-risk, long-term goals.

* An operational test and evaluation center to validate the performance of newly developed solutions.

* A rapid prototyping group, which would conduct fast-track development of promising new technologies.

* An external research agency that would use the model of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or a venture-capital entity.

The proposed department also will have to coordinate with R&D functions at other agencies, and a strong oversight structure will need to be in place to make sure homeland-related efforts are not pushed aside in organizations where homeland security is not the top priority, the report states.

In June, the National Academies released a report outlining the science and technology communities' perspective on the R&D priorities for homeland security. The White House incorporated that report into the basic science and technology initiatives listed in the National Strategy for Homeland Security, released July 16.

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