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R&D From Five Sources
Could Reach $2 Billion +
In early July, as Congress rushed to craft legislation for a Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a AAAS analysis reported that the new agency, as proposed by the Bush Administration, could take over NIH's bioterrorism portfolio, and ultimately incorporate R&D programs worth more than $2 billion.
The AAAS Funding Update suggested that unless Congress made dramatic changes to the Administration's plan, the new department would not have much of an impact on federal researchers in terms of how they would get paid, or who would supervise their work. But questions remained about how an additional layer of bureaucracy would affect the decision-making process. To meet a September 11 deadline for formally announcing the creation of the new agency, policymakers hoped to have legislation ready for the presidential signature by the end of July.
On 18 June, in draft legislation to create the new department, the Bush Administration proposed folding into it approximately $2.3 billion in federal R&D programs from the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, Transportation and Commerce, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The largest part of DHS's R&D spending would be for civilian bioterrorism defense programs, almost all of them now under the umbrella of NIH. If those programs remain under the control of NIH, DHS's R&D portfolio would fall below $500 million, according to the analysis.
"The argument against this proposal is that bioterrorism research is part of a biomedical portfolio held by NIH, and that it would be very difficult to separate out the basic science that is at the heart of all investigations of microbes," said Kei Koizumi, director of AAAS's R&D budget and policy program and author of the R&D-related analysis of the DHS proposal. "On the other hand, it might be better to look at anti-terrorism-related research more broadly, rather than have it under an agency whose general mission is human health."
The Administration estimates that the $37.5 billion requested in February for the DHS's component parts will be enough to fund the agency in FY2003, but the AAAS analysis suggested that costs to launch the new agency may be "substantially larger than the sum of its parts, especially in the first few years." As the legislation moves through Congress, ultimately it will require input from more than 80 congressional committees and subcommittees that have oversight over elements of the proposed department.
In a dramatic response to the urging of the scientific community, the House Science Committee voted on 10 July to create an Undersecretary for Science and Technology in the newly proposed Department of Homeland Security. AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner had recently written to congressional leaders, urging them to consider creating a leadership position in the DHS that would make one person responsible for all anti-terrorism research efforts, and "for coordination of R&D across the entire department, and with relevant other agencies." His recommendation parallels that of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which made a similar suggestion in a report entitled, Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism (http://www.nap.edu/). As proposed by the Bush Administration, R&D officers would report to four undersecretaries, with no overall coordination.
"We are particularly concerned about the role and structure of counterterrorism research and development (R&D) in the new department," Leshner said in his letter to House Majority Leader, U.S. Rep. Richard K. Armey (R-Texas). "As Congress begins the process of defining and shaping this department, we hope that careful consideration will be given to this issue."
18 July 2002