News: News Archives
AAAS Analysis Considers Impact of New Agency
on Federal Funding for Science and Technology
In a move that brings together under one agency the work of twenty-two government agencies and 170,000 federal employees, President Bush yesterday signed sweeping legislation to create the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The final bill contains elements that were considered crucial by leaders in the science and technology community, who urged inclusion of mechanisms for providing scientific and technical expertise to the agency created in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.
"When President Bush first proposed the DHS in June, his proposal contained very little science and technology (S&T) capability in the new department," says Kei Koizumi, director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program. "Several S&T organizations, including AAAS, sent letters to Congress urging them to write legislation providing for a high-ranking S&T official in DHS and an S&T policy infrastructure that the official and the rest of DHS could rely on for high-quality S&T advice. We were concerned that otherwise scientific and technical expertise would be missing from the future department's decisions."
In a special analysis dated 22 November, AAAS reports that, "the new DHS will have significant impacts in science and technology, especially in S&T related to homeland security. The DHS will have its own S&T policy infrastructure as well as a significant R&D portfolio of its own, drawing on transfers of programs from other agencies as well as newly created R&D programs and R&D performing organizations."
Nonetheless, Koizumi says, the DHS's final $800-million research portfolio is significantly smaller than the $3.4 billion in federal R&D programs from the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, Transportation and Commerce, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that the President had envisioned when he proposed the new agency. Many biomedical research organizations had argued against the President's proposal for moving NIH's bioterrorism research programs to DHS, a concern that was heeded by legislators in both the House and Senate.
"Organizations such as FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) and the ASM (American Society for Microbiology) suggested that Congress keep these programs in NIH so that NIH, with its process of selecting research by the highest scientific opportunity using peer review, could continue to manage the research portfolio," Koizumi says. "Congress agreed, and so the final legislation keeps the programs in NIH and gives DHS only a joint priority-setting but not funding role."
The new agency is to begin operating within 60 days under the leadership of former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who now directs the White House Office of Homeland Security.
"Most of the attention in the press has been focused on the administrative implications of this massive reorganization," says Al Teich, director of AAAS's Directorate for Science and Policy Programs. "Mr. Ridge will certainly have his hands full bringing together 22 agencies, but the legislative implicationsi.e., how Congress will organize itself to handle authorizations, oversight, and appropriations for DHSare no less momentous. In the immediate future, things in Congress are likely to stay pretty much as they are, but in 2004, Congress may create a new appropriations subcommittee devoted to DHS. If it does thisan action tantamount to a major earthquake on Capitol Hillit would most likely combine the functions of two existing subcommittees in order to keep the total number at 13."
The AAAS analysis notes that "the largest reorganization of the federal government since the 1940s" will place under the DHS umbrella agencies such as the Coast Guard, the Customs Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The total budget could be as high as $35 billion.
26 November 2002
For more information, see "Congress Finalizes Creation of Department of Homeland Security, Authorizes New S&T Infrastructure (HTML)."