WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., says the Administration’s plans for critical research and development of nuclear and radiological detection technology duplicates similar research already underway and could delay the nation’s ability to respond to nuclear and radiological threats. In a letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, Lieberman argues that the location of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office in the office of the Secretary of the Homeland Security Department fragments federal efforts to research and develop effective technology, creates a number of ambiguities, and has the potential to foster unintended consequences.

“Doing everything possible to deter and detect the threat of a nuclear or radiological terrorist attack is of extraordinary importance,” Lieberman writes in the letter. But, he adds, “I fear the Administration’s proposal falls far short… by failing to build on the assets we have, duplicating infrastructure, and taking a stove-piped approach to research and development. I’m concerned that the DNDO would not tackle the problem but instead risk slowing down our ability to address this threat.” The Department’s Science and Technology Directorate was created as a unified R&D center with the statutory mission to coordinate, integrate, and harvest all forms of homeland security research and development on chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-explosives threats. It is already undertaking extensive radiological R&D. But the ability of the Directorate’s Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency – modeled on the highly successful agency at the Defense Department – to be the “primary driver” of homeland security research and development would be diminished by the DNDO, Lieberman says. “DNDO would undermine a critical part of the research, development, testing and evaluation structure for homeland security… which the Administration itself has strongly endorsed and promoted for the last three years,” Lieberman says in the letter. “The Administration has provided insufficient justification for a second research and development organization to coordinate, direct, and fund research and development related to radiological and nuclear detection and has not demonstrated that the existing offices of the S&T cannot continue to perform these tasks.” Creating a second bureaucracy will slow down progress not accelerate it, he said. Lieberman raises additional questions about how the DNDO would coordinate with the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate, as well as the new Director of National Intelligence, given new intelligence collection and analysis capabilities that would be given to DNDO.