Important hearings for the Science and Technology Directorate of the
new Department of Homeland Security were held last Thursday. The new
Under Secretary for Science and Technology, Charles E. McQueary, was
the sole witness at both the House and Senate Appropriations
Subcommittees on Homeland Security. Committee members reacted very
favorably to McQueary.
McQueary was sworn in only the day before these hearings. Before
coming to this position he was the President of General Dynamics
Advanced Technology Systems, and had also served at AT&T, Lucent
Technologies, and as a Director for AT&T Bell Laboratories. McQueary
has a Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics from the University of Texas.
The new Department of Homeland Security has five directorates. The
Administration requested $803 million for the Science and Technology
Directorate for FY 2004, approximately 1/50 of the department's
McQueary has a difficult job. At the morning's well-attended House
Appropriations hearing, Subcommittee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) told
McQueary "everything you do needs to be on a short fuse . .
. not [as] an R&D problem for the sake of doing R&D . . . we
are looking to you for solutions . . . we want them fast."
Ranking Minority Member Martin Sabo (D-MN) agreed with Rogers that program
goals and milestones had to be established quickly, as the directorate
could do a lot of good, or waste a lot of money. Rogers added that the
subcommittee would not set policy direction, but would make its funding
decisions based on the Directorate's planning, performance, and progress.
The subcommittee would be fair, the chairman said, but had high expectations.
Similar admonishments were made in the afternoon Senate hearing, especially
in regard to performance measurements.
In addition to technological challenges, McQueary must now staff his
operation - "a person at a time" - while working with an untested
budget request. There were, as expected, questions about the
Directorate's request. "The amount of money we have is adequate,"
testified. Of the $803 million budget request, $350 million is for
the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency that will
"explore cutting edge approaches to assessing current and emerging
threats." McQueary expects this unit to be operational around
October 1, but cannot predict how many employees it will have. He is
now interviewing candidates to head HSARPA.
Senate Subcommittee Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) asked
how the directorate will interact with other agencies such as the
Coast Guard or Postal Service. McQueary assured the chairman that
he was working closely with them, later adding that he had "already
established a very close relationship with Dr. John Marburger."
response to Cochran's question about the designation of university
centers of excellence for homeland security research, McQueary
responded that it was unlikely that a single university would have
expertise in all areas. "My personal preference is to do an early
assessment of where the best work is being done in the areas of
counter terrorism interests and then choose centers of excellence
based upon that judgement," he said, adding "I would certainly
that we will call upon the scientific community to help us render
In addition to management and budget issues, appropriators asked
about specific threats to homeland security. To the question of
"what keeps you up at night," McQueary responded that biological
attacks had the potential to do a great deal of harm with a
relatively small amount of information. A major concern was the
detection of explosives carried by suicide bombers, which McQueary
predicted would become feasible. Concerns mentioned by the
appropriators were shoulder-fired missiles that could down a
commercial plane, port security, agricultural damage, dirty bombs,
biological warfare, attacks on nuclear and chemical plants, biometric
identification systems for border control, and cybersecurity. One
appropriator commented that "the possibilities are just mind-
As compared to almost all congressional hearings, the atmosphere in
these hearings was much more somber. As McQueary told Senate Ranking
Minority Member Robert Byrd (D-WVA), "the country has decided we
not adequately protected and we have work to be done." The
collective reaction of the appropriators to McQueary is perhaps best
summarized by Chairman Rogers, who began the House hearing by telling
the Under Secretary that the subcommittee would decide to fund, or
not to fund, the Directorate's request. In concluding the hearing,
Rogers told McQueary that the subcommittee was "very pleased with
what you are doing with your shop," telling him that he was a "good
man in a good place at a good time."