House Passes Homeland Security Spending Bill

The House's FY 2014 Homeland Security spending bill (HR 2217) passed June 6 on a largely party-line 245-182 vote and in spite of the President's overarching veto threat. The bill would make little change to the President’s request for R&D (PDF) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), save for one key area: it would cut funding in half for the planned National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility. Otherwise, funding levels throughout DHS’s two main R&D agencies – the Science and Technology Directorate and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office – would remain largely as the Administration has requested.

In historical terms, the House bill would allow the DHS R&D budget to continue its recovery from major cuts in recent years. Total DHS R&D would reach its highest point since FY 2009, adjusting for inflation.

Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). S&T performs R&D to develop, test, evaluate, and deploy advanced technologies that enhance federal, state, and local enforcement capabilities. The office in recent years has come under fire by appropriators and others for management, strategy, and effectiveness reasons. The resulting funding cuts have prompted the agency to focus more on near-term, off-the-shelf technological solutions, while still maintaining some capacity in more revolutionary, far-reaching technological innovation. In the House bill, S&T would receive $977 million for R&D, substantially above funding levels from the prior two years, though not meeting the President’s request. The House Appropriations Committee continues to echo its concerns over S&T R&D management, and urges permanent mechanisms and reforms to improve it.

The shortfall from the President's request is entirely due to a reduction in funding for the National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF), proposed for construction in Kansas. The facility, an advanced Biosafety Level 4 site, will research emerging foreign animal diseases that pose a threat to the nation’s health and food supply, including diseases that may move between species, and will replace the current Plum Island facility on Long Island. The Administration had requested $714 million for construction; the House would grant $404 million, which it deems sufficient to allow construction to continue on schedule.

Beyond NBAF construction, the House grants $467 million for Research, Development and Innovation, matching the request, and $40 million for university programs, exceeding the request. The House Appropriations Committee directs S&T to allocate $5 million for competitive university research programs for “rapidly developing and delivering models, prototypes and products and facilitating the commercial adoption of S&T-sponsored technologies.”

Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). DNDO is the lead federal agency responsible for nuclear counterterrorism, including the development and acquisition of nuclear and radiological detection technologies and ensuring effective response. DNDO also oversees the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture, a global network to monitor attempts to transport nuclear devices or fissile materials. The House has fully met the Administration’s request for DNDO R&D, including $75.3 million for the Transformational R&D program.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to unveil its version of the bill.

Table: Congressional Action on DHS R&D