In late September, Charles E. McQueary, Under Secretary for Science and Technology in the Department of Homeland Security, spoke to the DOE Facilities Caucus about the role that he intends the Department of Energy national laboratories to play.
"Our programs require the mobilization of the nation's premier science and technology talents from academia, private industry, and the Federal government," said McQueary. In addition to the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, which will fund extramural programs from universities and the private sector, DHS "will also tap into the Federal government's research community where the Department of Energy national laboratories play a prominent role." McQueary complimented lawmakers on ensuring that DHS would have an "equal footing" at the national laboratories with everyone else. "It's not going to just be, 'oh, now we're not doing anything else, we have time to do this.'"
The Directorate plans to engage both the large and small laboratories. "The larger labs can accommodate many needs, but smaller labs have expertise in certain critical areas," he said, "We will need a mix of both types of labs, and will match their capabilities with our requirements as needs arise." The DHS currently has more than $114 million in funding in place within the national laboratory system to support its work, and McQueary expressed his desire for the laboratories to compete for extramural funding as well. Effective tech transfer is key, he stressed.
One of the persistent questions about DHS is the relative funding emphasis on basic versus applied research. At the DOE Facilities Caucus briefing, McQueary said that in the early stages, the emphasis would be on applied research, with only about 10-15% of research dollars going to "forward- looking" research. "If S&T is going to be long-term relevant," he said, "We must make some scientific 'hits.'"
Once S&T has shown that homeland security research can and will work, the percentage going to higher-risk, longer-term research will increase. "In the end, we need both evolutionaryand revolutionary research," McQueary said.
McQueary's briefing to the DOE Facilities Caucus was very timely, as the next day, President Bush signed the FY 2004 DHS appropriations bill with a large increase for the Science and Technology Directorate. Further information about DHS and its programs can be found at www.dhs.gov
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Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette