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FYI Number 74: June 20, 2002

S&T Components of New Department of Homeland Security

President Bush sent Congress a 35-page bill on Tuesday to establish a Department of Homeland Security. Congress will likely pass this legislation, although it will have to wind its way through many committees. The President seeks passage of this bill before Congress adjourns, although this may be difficult to achieve because of other high priority items on the congressional calendar. The phase-in of the legislation's provisions would occur following enactment.

"In the war against terrorism, America's vast science and technology base provides us with a key advantage," stated a descriptive White House document preceding the release of the bill. References to S&T are found throughout this document, which describes how many of the homeland security functions now handled by more than 100 different organizations would be housed in the new department. It has been more than fifty years since such a wide-ranging reorganization proposal was advanced. The new department would have four primary divisions. The organizational chart shows Science and Technology Development under the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Countermeasures division. Prominent under this division is DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Regarding Lawrence Livermore, the document explains:

"The Department would unify much of the federal government's efforts to develop and implement scientific and technological countermeasures to CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear] terrorist threats. The Department would also provide direction and establish priorities for national research and development, for related tests and evaluations, and for the development and procurement of new technology and equipment to counter the CBRN threat. The Department would incorporate and focus the intellectual energy and extensive capacity of several important scientific institutions, including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (currently part of the Department of Energy) and the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (Department of Agriculture)."

The Administration's FY 2003 request for the Laboratory was $1,188 million. Taking all of the requests for the other government activities that would be folded into the new department yields a budget of $37,450 million. The document explains: "Effective management of research and development spending would be facilitated by central control of research and development funding based, again, on overall homeland security priorities."

A section of the descriptive document is entitled "Science & Technology Agenda." The document states:

"In the war against terrorism, America's vast science and technology base provides us with a key advantage. The Department would press this advantage with a national research and development enterprise for homeland security comparable in emphasis and scope to that which has supported the national security community for more than fifty years. This is appropriate, given the scale of the mission and the catastrophic potential of the threat. Many of the needed systems would be potentially continental in scope, and thus the technologies must scale appropriately, in terms of complexity, operation, and sustainability.

"This research and development would be driven by a constant examination of the nation's vulnerabilities, constant testing of our security systems, and a constant evaluation of the threat and its weaknesses. The emphasis within this enterprise would be on catastrophic terrorism - threats to the security of our homeland that would result in large-scale loss of life and major economic impact. It would be aimed at both evolutionary improvements to current capabilities as well as the development of revolutionary new capabilities.

"The following are examples of the types of research and development projects that the Department would pursue with its scientific assets.

"Preventing importation of nuclear weapons and material. The Department of Homeland Security would make defeating this threat a top priority of its research and development efforts. This nuclear denial program would develop and deploy new technologies and systems for safeguarding nuclear material stockpiles and for detecting the movement of those materials. In particular, it would focus on better detection of illicit nuclear material transport on the open seas, at U.S. ports of entry, and throughout the national transportation system.

"Detecting bioterrorist attacks. The anthrax attacks of October 2001 proved that quick recognition of biological terrorism is crucial to saving lives. The Department of Homeland Security would lead efforts to develop, deploy, manage, and maintain a national system for detecting the use of biological agents within the United States. This system would consist of a national public health data surveillance system to monitor public and private databases for indications that a bioterrorist attack has occurred, as well as a sensor network to detect and report the release of bioterrorist pathogens in densely populated areas.

"The technologies developed must not only make us safer, but also make our daily lives better. While protecting against the rare event, they should also enhance the commonplace. Thus, the technologies developed for homeland security should fit well within our physical and economic infrastructure, and our national habits. System performance must balance the risks associated with the threat against the impact of false alarms and impediments to our way of life."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095

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