Members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security
gave Charles McQueary a warm reception at last week's hearing on the
FY 2006 S&T request. McQueary is Under Secretary of the Department
of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate.
"Since the creation of the Science and Technology Directorate
two years ago, you have made tremendous progress in getting the agency
organized and running," subcommittee chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY)
told McQueary. "I am pleased with the approach you are taking to
meet the Directorate's challenges. . . . This is not an easy task and
I commend your work so far."
McQueary's testimony was straightforward, and it paid dividends. For
example, the subcommittee had requested that the Directorate provide
several status reports, many of which have not been completed. In responding
to Rogers' inquiry about the missing reports, McQueary replied that
the delay was "unacceptable," saying he accepted the criticism.
McQueary assured the subcommittee that he was working to complete the
reports as soon as possible, and was taking steps to assure future timeliness.
"I want to be viewed as responsive, timely and accurate,"
he told the subcommittee. Members appeared to accept these assurances.
The appropriators had a wide range of concerns. Rogers asked about
the risk of spent nuclear fuel rod storage facilities at generating
plants, and the status of a report on airline security. Ranking Minority
Member Martin Sabo (D-MN) asked about liability issues, airline cargo
screening, border security, and radio interoperability. Zach Wamp (R-TN),
who a year ago had a fairly sharp exchange with McQueary, expressed
gratitude to the secretary for his continued service in this highly
demanding position, and for his fast-tracking of research on a system
for detecting hazardous substances in shipments bound for the United
States. Wamp was also interested in the status of a new radiation exposure
standard. Marion Berry (D-AK) discussed how trained dogs remain the
most effective means of detecting certain dangerous substances, advocating
for more dogs to be fielded. Jo Ann Emerson (R-M) spoke for many when
she asked about how best to deploy technologies more quickly, while
Chet Edwards (D-TX) inquired about research on methods to detect nuclear
smuggling. Tom Latham (R-IA) asked about the status of animal vaccine
research. Improving port security was the focus of Lucille Roybal-Allard's
(D-CA) questions. Toward the end of the hearing, Sabo asked the status
of new University Centers of Excellence. McQueary replied that the research
areas for the new centers would be selected by the end of FY 2006.
At one point, McQueary was asked how much of his Directorate's initial
FY 2006 request to the Office of Management and Budget had been approved.
McQueary replied that OMB approved all of the requested money except
for a few million dollars, saying the reduction amounted to "nothing
major." (The FY 2006 request was $1,368.4 million, an increase
of 22.7%.) Latham commented, "you are an amazing person,"
a characterization that is not frequently heard at appropriations hearings.