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DHS Looks at Vulnerabilities, Priorities
S&T Undersecretary McQueary Says at AAAS Colloquium
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the most significant reorganization of the U.S. government since 1947, when President Harry S. Truman coordinated the various branches of the armed forces into the Department of Defense. Charles McQueary, Undersecretary for Science and Technology, outlined his new responsibilities at the colloquium luncheon on April 11.
"September 11 didn't make us more vulnerable, but made us more aware of our vulnerabilities," McQueary said.
The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) of the DHS exists to support the needs of the agency. Comprised of 22 different federal agencies, McQueary's office will translate the technology requests of the 180,000 people working for DHS to produce real solutions.
"The Office of Science and Technology will lead the deployment of countermeasures for nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological threats," McQueary said. "We're also conducting research and introducing operational capabilities into the field."
One hurdle McQueary must overcome is to obtain information and ideas from the people working on the frontline. He emphasized that the office would be listening carefully to the heartland of America and not focusing primarily on Washington. Another challenge is the need to harness the nation's scientific power to create real world applications.
"It's important that we maintain a timely transition to develop systems and put them in place and get products into the field. We'll be working with an entirely different mindset from other agenciesmore expeditious," McQueary said. "And we're asking local officials what they need to do their jobs."
National laboratories loaned the DHS many scientists to develop programs and products for the S&T. Now the science and technology establishment is recruiting the best minds to protect the American people.
The DHS has a general mandate from Congress to support U.S. leadership in science and technology. To achieve this goal, the S&T has joined the AAAS fellowship program and will fund post graduate and post doctoral fellowships.
"I'm looking forward to working with the three fellows joining the DHS," McQueary said. "The fellowship program will begin in the fall with the interview and selection process soon."
The directorate will also establish Centers of Excellence at universities focusing on specific scientific disciplines. The centers will distinguish each academic institution as "the best" in a particular field.
"One of the highest priorities for the S&T is border protection and monitoring. It is as important to track who leaves the country as who comes in. A crucial objective is to protect the country from nuclear and radiological devices," McQueary stated.
Bioprotection is another important initiative. The S&T is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to develop surveillance systems to scrutinize anomalies that could lead to a public health emergency.
McQueary reminded the group of the anthrax scare following the September 11 attacks. "Biological protection is crucial because you can do a lot of damage with a small amount of an agent."
The Biowatch Systemalready installed in many cities across the United Statesincludes new sensors to monitor for the release of pathogens in high traffic areas.
17 April 2003