WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., is cautioning that President Bush’s Homeland Security legislation would give short thrift to the role of science and technology in fighting terrorism, effectively restricting one of the most valuable tools at the country’s disposal.
Lieberman’s proposal, S. 2452, which is now being debated on the Senate floor, engages the community in the defense of the homeland to a far greater extent than President Bush’s proposal by reaching out to marshal and coordinate the nation’s unparalleled scientific and technological resources to develop new homeland security capabilities.
“The defense of our home soil is dependent upon the research, development, and deployment of new technologies,” Lieberman said. “My bill, in contrast to the Administration’s proposal, is committed to that fact.”
The Senate bill, for example, creates a Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (SARPA), which would administer a $200 million fund to support basic and applied research and development at entities within or outside the federal government. The bill also: Establishes a National Emergency Technology Guard consisting of teams of non-governmental volunteers to assist local communities in responding to emergencies requiring specialized science and technology capabilities. Establishes a Science and Technology Council consisting of representatives from other federal agencies, and provides authority to form an Advisory Panel of representatives from industry and academia. Creates an Office for Technology Evaluation and Assessment, which will act as a clearinghouse and point-of-contact for proposals regarding technologies relevant to homeland security.
Lieberman’s legislation contrasts sharply with the White House proposal, which articulates no coherent framework or mission statement. The broader science, technology and R&D functions of the Department of Homeland Security would be secondary priorities within the Department, and entities outside the new Department, including other government agencies, private sector firms, universities, and research institutions, would find themselves largely excluded from the homeland security effort.
Unlike the Lieberman proposal, the President’s bill contains no flexible funding mechanism, or even any additional funds, to support research and development in other agencies, in the private sector, or in the universities. It contains no mechanism to harness the expertise in all of the DOE national laboratories or sites, and no forum through which the private sector or academia may provide input or guidance on S&T-related issues.