Jay Cohen, the new Under Secretary for Science and Technology of the
Department of Homeland Security, was formerly the highly respected Chief
of Naval Research. Cohen's 35 years of experience in various Navy positions
will be pressed into service as he takes control of what Senate appropriators
called "a rudderless ship without a clear way to get back on course."
The FY 2007 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security
was one of only two funding bills passed by Congress before it left
in September. While the Science and Technology Directorate's "Research,
Development, Acquisition, and Operations" budget was cut significantly
from the FY 2006 level, the final number was higher than might have
In FY 2006, this budget category received $1,406.8 million, a figure
that had grown significantly since the Directorate was established in
2003 as an entirely new unit within the Department of Homeland Security.
The Bush Administration's FY 2007 request was $806.4 million, reduced,
in part, because of the proposed transfer of hundreds of millions of
dollars from the S&T directorate to a separate account for the Domestic
Nuclear Detection Office. For reasons outlined below, congressional
appropriators initially recommended budgets that were still lower: $775.4
million and $714.0 million. The bill signed by President Bush last month
provided more than what was requested: $838.1 million for Research,
Development, Acquisition and Operations.
The outlook this summer was not promising. House appropriations detailed
their criticisms about the Directorate in the report accompanying their
version of the FY 2007 bill. Among their comments: "The Committee
is very disappointed by S&T's poor response to Congressional requests
for information . . . there has been no measurable improvement in this
area, which is unacceptable." "Despite its promise, S&T
has failed to adequately convey its role or how it supports missions
of DHS component agencies." "[I]ndependent financial auditors
reported that during fiscal year 2005 S&T had financial reporting
deficiencies. . . ." Senate appropriators were even more critical
in their report: "The Committee is extremely disappointed with
the manner in which S&T is being managed within the Department of
Homeland Security. Despite the efforts of the Acting head of S&T
[Jeffrey Runge] this component is a rudderless ship without a
clear way to get back on course." A background report by House
Science Committee staff reached the same conclusion, explaining "Congress
has become increasingly concerned that the S&T Directorate is not
providing adequately technical support to the operational units of DHS
or effectively engaging the scientific community and private sector
in targeted research and development programs." Concerns were
voiced about a large number of high-level vacant positions and a lack
of transparency about research funding. Outside observers have been
equally critical, complaining about the lack of a strong strategic plan,
slowness in disbursing funding, and bureaucratic red tape.
House appropriators completed their FY 2007 bill in May. On June 27,
the day that the highly critical Senate subcommittee report was prepared,
President Bush announced his intention to nominate Rear Admiral Jay
Cohen to be Under Secretary. Less than two months later, the Senate
confirmed Cohen by unanimous consent.
Cohen has appeared at several hearings since his nomination was approved,
and has been well-received. His move into this new position was called
a huge step forward for the Directorate by a key Senate appropriator.
At previous defense-related hearings and meetings Cohen's grasp of the
issues and his straight-forward manner have earned him high marks.
"We're at war," Cohen told House Members at one hearing this
fall. "We have not gone far enough. We can go much further."
In testimony on Capitol Hill, the new Under Secretary began by explaining,
"The S&T Directorate has a significant role in bringing
to bear solutions to the Department's homeland security challenges.
During my tenure at the Office of Naval Research (ONR), especially after
9/11, I learned first hand the incredible value that a sustained, customer
focused balanced basic and applied research program adds to America's
ability to bring advanced technology to our (and our allies) asymmetric
advantage against the enemies of freedom. It can mean the difference
between life and death, victory and defeat." Cohen's early
mention of the value of basic research is notable, as previous Directorate
budgets have strongly favored the development and deployment of technology.
In this testimony to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Homeland
Security, Cohen said, "To accomplish this mission and be successful
we need to make changes to mature the organization, as pointed out in
the language in both the Senate and House 2007 appropriations committee
reports. I intend for the Directorate to become an organization that
is a customer focused, output oriented, a full service organization
as envisioned in the enabling legislation that must be cost efficient,
effective, responsive, agile, and flexible. To advance the organization
I intend to make the following adjustments which I call The 4
Gets'." These 4 Gets are: "Get the Organization Right,"
which beside a realignment of the Directorate into six divisions also
must include "a change in organizational culture," "Get
the People Right," "Get the Books Right," and "Get
the Content Right."
Cohen's testimony elaborated on the interplay of research and applications,
stating, "This structure will allow a healthy balance between
research and applications, risk and time to delivery. Investments will
span across Transition Readiness Levels (TRL), including short -term
(under 3 years); mid-term (3-8 years); and long term (over 8 years).
This push and pull between research and application as well as tension
over applied research resources will allow for a balanced portfolio
of investment." Importantly, he also later stated, "My years
at ONR have taught me that an R&D organization must take to heart
customers' insights, priorities, and goals. Too often those in science
and technology fields say we know what you need.' They do research
because it is interesting and holds potential for future capabilities
not because it meets a specific goal or objective. While this type of
unfettered scientific research is important the S&T Directorate
must also focus and prioritize resources to be output oriented and customer
driven. We must set our priorities to align with National and Department
of Homeland Security priorities. S&T's work will be targeted at
enhancing capabilities and customers needs."
The final conference report, House Report 109-699, accompanying the
FY 2007 appropriations bill, H.R. 5441 (see http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app07.html),
outlines the appropriators' management expectations, calling for a "Five-Year
Research Plan and Business Model." The report states: "The
conferees expect S&T to greatly improve its research strategic plan
and its budget documents. These documents should reflect the new vision
for S&T as proposed by the Under Secretary. The conferees direct
the Under Secretary to develop a five-year research plan, which outlines
its priorities, performance measures for each portfolio and resources
needed to meet its mission. This plan should also incorporate a business
model for its output of services and technologies to its end user. The
conferees expect the Under Secretary to brief the Committees on Appropriations
no later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act."
The conference report outlines FY 2007 funding levels for various budget
activities within the Research, Development, Acquisition and Operations
component (biological and chemical and explosive countermeasures, standards
coordination, etc.) Conferees provided $50.0 million for University
Programs (FY 2005 budget: $70.0 million, FY 2006 budget: $62.4 million,
FY 2007 request $52.0 million) and stated the following: "The
University program has the potential to facilitate cutting-edge research
on homeland security issues. The conferees encourage S&T to solicit
a wide variety of research projects from the plethora of universities
engaged in homeland security research that focus on the greatest risks
facing the nation. The conferees direct the Under Secretary of Science
and Technology to brief the Committees on Appropriations, no later than
60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, on the University-Based
Centers of Excellence Program goals for fiscal year 2007 and outcomes
projected for each center for the next three years."
With this budget cycle completed for the Department of Homeland Security,
attention now turns to FY 2008. Cohen's concluding remarks at the House
hearing provide insight into his objectives, saying, "My goal
is that, as a result of this S&T Directorate realignment, when the
President's fiscal year 2008 budget is sent forward to Congress, this
Committee, and the Appropriators, will see that DHS S&T is a more
responsive, agile, customer-focused organization, one that better enables
our nation to prevent, protect, respond, and recover from acts of terrorism,
natural disasters or other emergencies."