DHS to weigh science goals

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Fiscal 2005 will be a year of balancing priorities for the Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate, Undersecretary Charles McQueary testified today before a House subcommittee.

Biological countermeasures will continue to be the directorate's top concern, and that is where the majority of the funding will go. But many members of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security's Cybersecurity Science and Research and Development Subcommittee expressed concern that other areas might be getting short changed. Their biggest worry was for the cybersecurity arena, where the president's budget requests only $18 million, compared to $407 million for biological countermeasures.

McQueary testified that the $18 million supplements funding also in place within the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate's National Cyber Security Division. "Based on where we are right now, I'm comfortable with that," he said, but should more support be needed, money will be reprogrammed.

However, McQueary said, overall funding for the Science and Technology Director is a problem. One area where this really shows is in the funding for the academic centers of excellence, which are intended to provide focused research support to the homeland security effort. For fiscal 2004, the program to establish those centers received almost $70 million -- enough for five centers -- but for fiscal 2005 and for the foreseeable future, the request drops to $30 million per year, which is only enough for three.

Should the directorate award grants for five centers this year, two will have to be cut off later, McQueary said. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), ranking member on the subcommittee, urged the directorate to make all five awards anyway in the hope that the research for at least two of those projects will be continued later by some other organization. .

Tomorrow is the first meeting of the Homeland Security Science and Technology Advisory Committee, a group of private-sector exports who will be working directly with McQueary and interacting with the White House's Homeland Security Advisory Council.

"I'm very anxious to have them review what we're doing, how we're doing it," McQueary said.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), emphasized the need to get outside input, particularly when it comes to figuring out how to keep priorities straight and how to coordinate with the research going on across government, even initiatives that don't have an obvious connection to homeland security.

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