At a briefing yesterday, Charles E. McQueary, Under Secretary for
Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security,
offered his insights on the direction which the Science and
Technology Directorate will take in the coming year. McQueary
clearly has his hands full as he works to fully staff his directorate
and meet wide ranging challenges to America's security.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has five directorates: Border
and Transportation Security, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Information
Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, Management, and Science and
Technology. DHS consolidated many government functions and employees,
and now has about 180,000 employees. The Science and Technology Directorate
began with six employees, and has since grown to 75 employees, many
with advanced scientific degrees. Under the DHS authorization, the Directorate
will have 180 employees, which McQueary hopes to have in place a year
from now. There will also be a "couple of hundred" support
contractors. McQueary characterized the operation, now in its sixth
month, as a work in progress. Congress recently completed work on the
FY 2004 DHS appropriations bill with a large increase for the Science
and Technology Directorate; see /fyi/2003/126.html
McQueary described his Directorate's primary function as a supplier
of innovative and effective technology to the other DHS directorates.
Two or three people from each of the other four directorates work
directly with McQueary's Directorate to ensure close alignment of
missions. Research areas include radiological and nuclear materials,
biological agents, high explosives, systems engineering, and cyber
security. McQueary identified systems engineering as "the key
issue," as DHS grapples with integrating federal resources to protect
a very wide range of possible targets. Also important, he said, was
the development of countermeasures standards so that local first
responders can ensure that they are purchasing the right equipment.
Protecting America will require the mobilization of the nation's best
scientists, McQueary said. Toward this end, the Directorate has
established a university program that has offered 101 scholarships
and fellowships. The Directorate is also in the process of selecting
Centers of Excellence at colleges and universities. Seventy-two
white papers were submitted from candidate institutions, which were
narrowed to twelve semi-finalists. The first center is to be
selected this year. The DHS website states that nine other centers
may be named by the end of next year. McQueary noted that selecting
these Centers is a complex undertaking, and that the Directorate will
be adding one center at a time.
In addition, a Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency,
resembling DARPA, has been established to engage private interests.
A bidder's conference about an announcement for chemical and
biological sensors was held in a large hotel ballroom in Washington
this week, and McQueary said that it was standing-room-only. There
is, he said, a lot of interest in such work.
The Directorate is also engaging both large and small national
laboratories. McQueary praised lawmakers for being foresighted in
including legislative language in the DHS act covering the national
laboratories. McQueary has been visiting laboratories to assess the
roles that they could play in meeting his Directorate's needs, and
are on equal footing in the DHS selection process, he said. McQueary
is seeking detailees from the laboratories to work in the
Directorate. He spoke of the importance of sound technology transfer
mechanisms at the labs, and said, in addition, that legislation may
be needed to ensure that technology transfer is fully utilized by
universities and private businesses.
When asked about the nature of the work to be supported by the
Directorate, McQueary said that a series of scientific "hits"
needed early on to demonstrate the relevance of science and
technology to homeland security. This year, he expects that 10-15%
of the research the Directorate supports will be on "forward-looking
research," as opposed to the application of technology, and that
percentage will increase in the future.
McQueary expects to designate an existing Federally-Funded Research
and Development Center to assist his Directorate, but said that not
very much has been done so far in this regard. Further information about
DHS and its programs can be found at www.dhs.gov
Attending this briefing was Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), who asked a series
of questions to McQueary about how the Directorate would operate,
stressing the need for strong coordination. "We have a lot riding
you," Holt said.