NEWS

House Committee Approves Homeland Security R&D

By Matthew Harwood

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) scientists who cook up next-generation technologies like chemical-sniffing cell phones and physiological threat detection just received a big vote of confidence.

The House Homeland Security Committee yesterday unanimously passed an authorization bill (pdf) appropriating the department's Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate approximately $2.3 billion over the next two years to research and develop next-generation technologies to protect homeland security. In the past, S&T has been criticized for concentrating on short-term technology solutions to immediate problems rather than taking the long view.

“This comprehensive bill is the result of nine months of bipartisan process,"  said Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) in a statement. "From screening technologies to first responder equipment, this bill ensures that the Science and Technology Directorate is at the forefront of efforts to develop novel approaches and technologies to respond to some of the most vexing homeland security challenges.”

(For more on how S&T takes sci-fi-esque ideas and tries to turn them into proven technologies, read Joseph Straw's "From Research to Reality" in the Feb. issue of Security Management.)

With concerns about cybersecurity high, the bill would double S&T's cybersecurity research and development budget to $150 million over the next two years, reports NextGov.com. The bill would also create an Office of Public-Private Partnerships inside S&T so that promising private-sector products and solutions get the support they need to become viable. To ensure S&T doesn't let good ideas fall through the cracks, the office would establish a Rapid Response Division "to perform business and technical reviews to assist in screening unsolicited homeland security technology proposals," the legislation says. Thompson said the bill would help innovative firms, especially small businesses, cut through DHS red tape and get their ideas to S&T decision makers.

"I cannot tell you how many times I have been approached by a company with a novel homeland security technology that has been frustrated by how difficult it is to work with S&T," Thompson said, according to NextGov.com.

This is the first authorization bill for S&T since DHS' creation in 2002.


♦ Screenshot of DHS S&T Web page

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