Letter to Congress on proposed homeland security department

The Honorable Richard K. Armey
Majority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
H-327A The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Armey:

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has been following the current debate over the establishment of a new Department of Homeland Security with great interest. We are particularly concerned about the role and structure of counterterrorism research and development (R&D) in the new department.

As Congress begins the process of defining and shaping this department, we hope that careful consideration will be given to this issue. We agree strongly with House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert that a “clear focus on-and locus for- research” will allow a new Department of Homeland Security to coordinate the many diverse scientific and technological areas essential to its functions. This focus would be sharpened by providing for the appointment of a single official-for example, an under secretary-with responsibility for coordination of R&D across the entire department and with other relevant agencies.

This idea is underlined by the recent National Academies report which observed that the complexity and interdisciplinary nature of the science and technology involved in fighting terrorism requires more than just parallel investments in various areas of R&D. It calls for a well-orchestrated and coordinated endeavor among the 26 agencies that currently contribute to our nation’s R&D enterprise.

AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society, with over 130,000 individual members and 272 affiliated societies, representing 10 million individuals in all fields of science and engineering. Founded in 1848, AAAS is also the publisher of the journal Science, and has long been a leader in promoting science to meet our national goals.

These comments are respectfully submitted as a means for enhancing the dialogue between the executive and legislative branches on this vital issue. AAAS supports a balanced approach to protecting our national security and promoting scientific and technological advancement and stands ready to assist you in the future.

Sincerely,

Alan I. Leshner

cc: Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert
Rep. Ralph M. Hall