GAO warns against funding DHS R&D without strategic plan in place

DHS “has not yet completed a strategic plan
to identify priorities, goals, objectives, and policies for the R&D
of homeland security technologies, and some gaps remain in its
coordination with other federal agencies,” GAO stated in the report,
Homeland Security: DHS Needs a Strategy to Use DOE’s Laboratories for
Research on Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Detection and Response

“According to DHS officials,” GAO stated in
its report to the Senate Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and
Capabilities, “the department has not completed a research strategic
plan because it has spent much of the time since its March 2003
creation organizing the Science and Technology Directorate, developing
policies and procedures, and hiring necessary staff.”

It continued: “Failure to complete a
strategic plan and to fully coordinate its research efforts may limit
DHS’s ability to leverage resources and could increase the potential
for duplication of research.”

Created by Title III of the Homeland Security
Act of 2002, DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate is responsible
for, among other things, preparing a strategic plan for developing
countermeasures to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and
other emerging terrorist threats. In addition, the act requires DHS to
coordinate the federal government’s efforts to identify and develop
these countermeasures.

According to the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS), the latest estimate is that HSARPA will
award $210 million to industry contractors, research institutions and
universities in 2004. The proposed 2005 budget of $987 million advances
HSARPA’s R&D portfolio by 15.5 percent to $1.2 billion.

So far, GAO reported finding, DHS’s research
program has concentrated on funding projects at five DOE
laboratories—Los Alamos, Sandia, Lawrence Livermore, Pacific Northwest
and Oak Ridge National Laboratories. The labs received more than 96
percent of the $57 million DHS invested in research at DOE’s
laboratories in fiscal year 2003 and will receive almost 90 percent of
the $201 million for fiscal year 2004.

Responding to a draft of GAO’s report, DHS
officials agreed that a strategic R&D plan is critical to the
success of the department. They did not explicitly agree or disagree
with GAO’s other recommendations, but provided additional information
on its strategic planning and coordination activities and on its
relationship with DOE’s laboratories.  HST

The entire report is available in PDF format at: d04653.pdf

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