Today in a hearing to review the fiscal year 2012 (FY12) budget requests for the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), Members on both sides of the aisle stressed a need for comprehensive and transparent research and development (R&D) activities to address technology needs of today and tomorrow. In particular, the need for more efficient screening technologies, both at our nation's borders and airports, was emphasized.
"In the current budget environment, there continue to be concerns that DHS is having difficulty responding to immediate needs, while also pursuing basic research and development that can help with the long-term capabilities needed to protect the homeland in the future," said Subcommittee Chairman Ben Quayle (R-AZ). "In my home state of Arizona, violence and security issues along the border are, tragically, a regular experience. In a recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Border Patrol reported that only 44 percent of the border was under operational control - this has to be improved."
The FY12 budget requests for DHS S&T and the DNDO cumulatively represent more than $1.3 billion. DHS S&T's budget would increase by 17 percent; most of this increase, however, reflects the proposed transfer of R&D programs from DNDO to DHS S&T. An organizational realignment at DHS S&T took place in late 2010, which consolidated all DHS basic research within DHS S&T. Excluding the DNDO transfer and new funding for the construction of a National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, the DHS S&T budget request represents an 11 percent decrease from FY10.
Witnesses today discussed the methods and criteria used to develop long-term basic R&D priorities at DHS S&T and how these methods and criteria could be improved. Concerns continue to emerge in the current budget environment that in responding to immediate needs, DHS has experienced challenges in pursuing basic R&D that could potentially help aid the development of the innovative long-term capabilities needed to protect the homeland years down the road. Witnesses also emphasized the need for greater coordination and communication on R&D efforts between the private and public sector.
Members and witnesses also discussed some of the challenges in developing screening and detection technologies that are both more effective and less intrusive in detecting dangerous or illegal substances. Witnesses contended that such technologies have been elusive because threats are constantly evolving.
A recent report from GAO pointed to ways that DHS can better address threats by making better use of limited R&D funding. Specifically the report criticized the efficiency of DHS's acquisition process, and recommended strengthening R&D efforts by ensuring that testing efforts are completed before making acquisition decisions; and cost-benefit analyses are conducted to reduce R&D inefficiencies and costs.
The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittee:
Dr. Tara O'Toole, Under Secretary for Science and Technology, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Mr. Warren Stern, Director, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Dr. James Carafano, Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, The Heritage Foundation
Mr. Marc Pearl, President and Chief Executive Officer, Homeland Security & Defense Business Council
Mr. David Maurer, Director, Homeland Security and Justice Team, U.S. Government Accountability Office