Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing to review activities at the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). Subcommittee Democrats explored the FY 2012 budget request for research and development at DHS and assessed the status of efforts to improve management and performance at the Directorate and DNDO.
"I couldn't be more pleased that our first subcommittee hearing of the 112th Congress is on research and development at the Department of Homeland Security," said Subcommittee Ranking Member David Wu (D-OR). "The work that DHS does is critically important -- literally, life and death. It is work to keep Americans and our first responders safe."
Democratic Members and witnesses discussed problems that have plagued the Directorate and the DNDO in the past, including the struggle to effectively prioritize research activities and target investments to the most critical threats, the lack of a strategic plan to guide research and development investments, concerns over the Directorate's level of responsiveness to stakeholder and end-user needs in technology development, and decisions to proceed with large-ticket acquisitions before testing and evaluation were complete. However, Democratic Members and witnesses emphasized that progress was being made at the Directorate and DNDO, and expressed optimism about their ability to carry out their mission effectively in the future.
"Precisely because the work that you do is important, we hold you to the highest of standards. We can't -- and should not -- ignore the problems that have plagued the Directorate and DNDO in the past. However, I believe that the Directorate and DNDO are taking the steps that need to be taken to get on the right track. I want to know when we can expect the rubber to hit the road with respect to these efforts and start seeing results," said Ranking Member David Wu.
Democratic Members also discussed the importance of DHS leveraging its relationship with the Department of Energy laboratories, its Centers of Excellence, and the private sector to fulfill research needs critical to its mission.
"Whether it is improving airport screening technology or enhancing monitoring at the border, the Homeland Security Department has vast research and development needs that are critical to the safety and security of our country," said Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), an active member of the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee who participated in today's hearing. "It is vital that the Department continues to foster a strong relationship with our national laboratories and research universities that provide tremendous resources in the effort to secure our homeland. We must continue to focus on the swift transition of new technologies into operational solutions so that the Department has the latest technology that will help protect the American people."