The House Science Committee will draft legislation on July 10
in response to President Bush's proposal for a Department of
Homeland Security. This action follows two committee hearings
held late last month on science and technology to combat
As outlined in FYI
#74, the new Department would encompass some of the activities of
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Title III of the President's
legislation would establish an Under Secretary for Chemical, Biological,
Radiological, and Nuclear Countermeasures. Two Commerce Department cyber-security
units, including one at NIST, would be moved to the new Department.
These transfers, and the duties of the new Under Secretary seem to be
the major concerns of the Science Committee about the President's bill.
The committee's first hearing on June 25 received testimony from Lewis
M. Branscomb of Harvard University and Richard D. Klausner of the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation. They were the co-chairs for a National
Academy of Sciences report entitled "Making the Nation Safer: Science
and Technology for Countering Terrorism." This study was started
in December 2001 with the Academy's own funds. The Academy established
a committee of 24 experts in science, engineering, medicine, and policy.
One of Branscomb and Klausner's major points in their joint testimony
was the need for a Homeland Security Institute with "strong analytical
capability" to help the current Office of Homeland Security, and
later the Department of Homeland Security. They said, "This institute
would be a dedicated, nonprofit, contractor-operated organization. Experts
hired by the institute would provide analysis, simulation, and modeling
to identify vulnerabilities and assess the effectiveness of steps taken
to reduce them." See the National Academy's site at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10415.html
for information concerning the report.
Committee members and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) responded
positively to the witnesses. Committee chairman Sherwood
Boehlert (R-NY) described R&D as a critical component of
homeland defense, but also said that it would be "extremely
unwise" to locate all of the R&D agencies with a homeland
defense function within one agency. "Finding that balance is
no mean trick," he said. Wyden stressed the need for any
approach to be bipartisan. Among those concerns that surfaced
at this hearing was the Bush proposal to move some of NIST's
cyber-security functions to the new Department. Rep. Vern
Ehlers (R-MI) was particularly supportive of the Homeland
Security Institute, although he criticized the proposed level
of funding for this kind of analysis within the new
A few days later a second hearing was held, with OSTP Director
John Marburger, DOE Office of Science Director Ray Orbach, and
John Tritak, Director of the Critical Infrastructure Assurance
Office in the Department of Commerce, as the three witnesses.
Marburger described the Under Secretary position, and called
Lawrence Livermore "the hub" for the coordination of
countermeasures to terrorism within the proposed Department.
He said the new department was designed to be very flexible,
agile, and fast-paced to meet any threat. Orbach
characterized the President's plan, particularly that
concerning the Under Secretary, as making "good sense." A
director of homeland security would be assigned in each of the
ten national labs as a single point of contact for
universities engaged in research. Most of Tritak's testimony
was devoted to the transfer of two Commerce Department cyber-
security operations to the new Department.
Boehlert intends to refine the S&T components of the
President's legislation, and his questions and those of his
colleagues revealed their concerns. Boehlert wants an Under
Secretary for Research and Development, criticizing the
Administration's proposed position as too narrow in scope.
Pointing to the Academy report's recommendation for an Under
Secretary of Technology, Boehlert told Marburger that the
committee hoped to work with the Administration on refining
the position called for in the legislation. Boehlert also
liked the NAS recommendation for a Homeland Security
Institute. Marburger would only say that it was "an
interesting idea" warranting consideration.
There was much concern about the Administration's proposals
regarding the transfer of the Commerce Department's cyber-
security units. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said private industry
was "very, very alarmed" about the proposal. Rep. Connie
Morella (R-MD) and Rep. Ehlers shared these concerns, Ehlers
calling the plan to move affected NIST employees a "horrible
Other members expressed worries or criticism about the
President's bill. Marburger told the committee that the
functions pulled into the new Department will be "a matter of
some judgement," later admitting, "we may not have it all
right." Later, Marburger said the Administration was very
appreciative of the Academy's work, did not feel it was
incompatible with the Administration's thinking, and that it
would carefully study the NAS proposals.
Toward the conclusion of the hearing, Orbach described what he
envisions for Lawrence Livermore's role in homeland security.
It would be a headquarters for R&D for the Department of
Homeland Security, he said, in "almost a campus." The lab
would have close ties with near-by operations doing critical
work in the life sciences. Advanced computational capability
would be a must.
The House Committee on Science will mark up its portion of the
bill on July 10. Congressional leaders are moving quickly to
pass this legislation by September 11.