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FYI Number 134: December 6, 2002

S&T Components of New Department of Homeland Security Law

There are important science and technology components in the Homeland Security Act that was signed by President Bush. The new law, P.L. 107-296, is immense; the table of contents alone is 14 pages long. It is expected that a year will be needed to organize the new Department of Homeland Security. In the physical sciences, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will be the most immediately affected by the new legislation.

While many aspects of this bill were controversial, the S&T components were drafted with the bipartisan support of key members in the House and Senate. In June, the administration sent Congress a bill that would authorize establishment of the department. Twenty-two days later, the House Science Committee held a hearing at which members advocated an Under Secretary for Science and Technology (see /fyi/2002/082.html .) A hearing later that afternoon by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was somewhat more contentious, with key senators pushing for broader involvement of all the national laboratories in the new department. P.L. 107-296 reflects almost all of the changes supported by the Science Committee, and ensures a broad input of the national laboratories into the department's work. Here are some of the major S&T items in the law pertaining to the physical sciences:

First, "A Directorate of Science and Technology headed by an Under Secretary for Science and Technology" is established. The Under Secretary will advise the Secretary on R&D efforts, priorities, goals, objectives and policies. Fourteen responsibilities are spelled out for this position in Section 302 of P.L. 107-296. Readers wishing the read the language pertaining to this or the various sections listed below may do so by going to the "Homeland Security Act of 2002" at http://thomas.loc.gov/

At the June Senate hearing, there was much discussion about the role of the national laboratories. Section 303 of this law includes "The advanced scientific computing research program and activities at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory" under Functions Transferred. The Senate hearing provides good insight into the administration's thinking about what this would mean to affected employees, with one administration witness saying the changes would be more of a philosophical and administration nature (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2002/082.html.) Five other DOE programs were also transferred.

The two senators from New Mexico went to great lengths at this hearing to ensure that all of the laboratories would be involved in the work of the new department. The law reflects this in a number of its provisions, perhaps most explicitly in Section 309 which states "the Secretary may utilize the Department of Energy national laboratories and sites through any 1 or more of the following methods, as the Secretary considers appropriate." It then lists a joint sponsorship arrangement, direct contract, "work for others" arrangement, and "any other method as provided by law." There are other S&T provisions of note. Section 305 allows the Under Secretary to contract with federally funded research and development centers "to provide independent analysis of homeland security issues." Section 307 authorizes a Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, whose director will "award competitive, merit-reviewed grants, cooperative agreements or contacts to public or private entities," including universities. This DARPA-like unit is authorized (not appropriated) $500 million for FY 2003. Section 308 states the department is to "operate extramural research, development, demonstration, testing and evaluation programs so as to . . . ensure that colleges, universities, private research institutes, and companies . . . from as many areas of the United States as practicable participate." This same section also calls for the establishment of a "university-based center or centers for homeland security. The purpose of this center or centers shall be to establish a coordinated university-based system to enhance the Nation's homeland security." Following this is a "Criteria for Selection" consisting of 15 items that "shall" be considered in selecting this center. Many have charged that this singles out one university.

Section 311 of the law calls for the establishment of a 20-member Homeland Security Science and Technology Advisory Committee. It will provide an annual report including "identifying research areas of potential importance to the security of the Nation." Section 312 establishes a Homeland Security Institute that will be run as a federally funded research and development center. It will provide a range of analytical capabilities. Finally, Section 313 establishes a centralized federal clearinghouse for information relating to homeland security technologies.

As is true with all departments and agencies, authorizations describe programs, jurisdictions, responsibilities, and funding limits. P.L. 107-296 does not provide the actual money to run this department. That funding is bogged down in the appropriations process, expected to be resolved when Congress returns next year.

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

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