Bill would fund U.S.-Israel R&D

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Representatives Jim Turner (D-Texas) and Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) March 2 introduced a bill that would tap into the Israeli private sector experience in developing antiterror technologies.

H.R. 3871 called the United States-Israel Homeland Security Foundation Act would set aside $25 million for research and development of new homeland security technologies conducted jointly by American and Israeli companies.

"If we expect to win the war on terrorism, we have to cooperate with our friends and allies, and I can think of no better partner than Israel," said Weldon in a prepared statement. "The Israelis are experts in preventing and responding to terrorism, and I am confident that by working together, this proactive legislation will foster the kind of research and development that will propel private industries to develop the technology that will help protect us from terrorism."

The legislation suggests that officials from the Homeland Security Department 's Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) administer the grants, which would be matched by Israel. Companies would repay the grants after the production of such technologies, according to the bill

The bill also proposes an advisory board, comprised of public and private sector representatives, including HSARPA's director, DHS' director of international affairs and relevant Israeli government officials.

However, the bill also gives the DHS secretary the option of not creating a separate fund, but instead using the $25 million to enhance an existing vehicle -- the Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation. That joint grant program has invested $180 million in 600 projects since it was started in 1977. The foundation has produced $7 billion in sales and development of a number of technologies.

The Turner-Weldon bill states that if the DHS secretary does not create a homeland security foundation, then BIRD could be expanded to include joint business ventures related to homeland security.

Both lawmakers have said more should be done to shore up homeland defenses. Last week, Turner and his fellow Democrats issued a 135-page report about security shortfalls in various areas and provided recommendations on how they can be corrected.

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