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Homeland Security in the FY 2018 Omnibus: Core R&D Protected

Congress prioritized funding for central S&T programs, but trimmed research around domestic nuclear detection.

See Also: DHS in the AAAS R&D Dashboard | Complete Data Tables

Coming into the FY 2018 cycle, the President had slated large reductions to science and technology components within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget. Although the House and Senate restored some of this funding in their proposed spending bills, overall appropriations were down across both chambers. In the end, thanks to the recent budget deal that lifted federal discretionary spending caps, DHS was granted substantive increases for core research and laboratory facilities.

Bottom Line: The main Science & Technology (S&T) Directorate was given a sizeable $59 million or 7.6 percent total increase above FY 2017 enacted (see Funding Table linked above). However, the agency’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) was cut by $17 million or 4.8 percent.

What’s Increasing:

  • Within DHS S&T, the principal Research, Development and Innovation account received a 9.1 percent increase for a range of activities around cyber infrastructure, unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technologies, and explosive threat assessment, among other areas. The omnibus legislation directs the S&T Directorate to collaborate with universities on border security research topics. S&T is also directed to place an increased focus on technology transfer.
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    S&T laboratory facilities secured a 12.1 percent boost. Congress restored funding for laboratories proposed for closure, including the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC), Chemical Security Analysis Center (CSAC), and National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL). The omnibus also fully funds construction of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kansas. Expected to be fully operational in 2022, NBAF will serve as a biosafety level-4 research facility to study emerging animal diseases, including those which may be transmitted to humans.

  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) R&D funding quadrupled to $20.2 million, as requested by the Administration.

What’s Flat/Decreasing:

  • University programs within DHS S&T were flat-funded, versus the Administration’s requested cuts. This will allow S&T to fund 10 Centers of Excellence (COE) and continue its current COE program, according to the omnibus text.
  • Within DNDO, the Research and Development account was reduced by 6.1 percent, in accordance with Administrative and Congressional preferences. The bulk of this reduction comes from detection capability development and assessment programs. The Transformational R&D program, which oversees a full pipeline of basic and applied research to improve radiological and nuclear detection and forensics capabilities, was essentially flat-funded.
  • Coast Guard R&D was cut by about 20 percent, though the Administration and Congress had sought even larger reductions.

In Historical Context: DHS R&D funding has been somewhat of a roller coaster (see graph above). Following an initial surge in the early 2000s, the agency’s R&D budget declined considerably, and has mostly stagnated over the past few years.

Back to Omnibus Table of Contents

Photo Credit: DHS


David Parkes

Program Associate