Hearing Highlights Proposed Funding Cuts to DHS Science and Technology Directorate
Recent proposals by the Trump administration to cut funding levels at the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate have raised bipartisan concerns.
The concerns came out during a hearing this week in the House Homeland Security Committee’s Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Subcommittee, entitled “How Effective is the Science and Technology Directorate? Stakeholder Perspectives.”
Republican subcommittee chairman Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY) said he was “very concerned that the president’s fiscal year 2018 budget request proposed its closure, in addition to the closure of two other DHS labs that focus on chemical and biological threats. Now is not the time to be cutting federal resources to counter chemical and biological threats and support for our first responders.”
According to FedScoop, if the cuts are allowed, programs such as the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory – which evaluates emerging technology options available to first responders – could face the cutting block.
According to Reginald Brothers, the former DHS Under Secretary of Science and Technology who ran the organization for three years, starting in 2014, unpredictable funding levels and bureaucratic hurdles pose serious challenges to agencies’ abilities to operate effectively on the ground.
“From personal experience, I know that one of the most disruptive forces for technology and innovation organizations is uncertain and unstable funding,” said Brothers. “This challenge is magnified at DHS because the threat environment can change on a frequent basis, which can call for rapid change across our R&D investment portfolio to meet an immediate or near-term threat.”
Brothers specifically pointed to the agency’s financial reporting requirements as a contributor to an inability to best function, claiming the structures prevent the director of the Science and Technology directorage “from shifting funding to counter an emerging threat or ahieving agility similar to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.”
Said Brothers, “S&T has to report very specifically in terms of the kinds of spends it does. One of the challenges, having served at DARPA and DOD, is with the way that S&T has to report early commitments and obligations of funding — it makes it difficult when things happen.”
While the cuts were restored during the House appropriations process, the proposals being considered are not-yet final and there remains a possibility that the proposed cuts are reintroduced in a final budget resolution, which must be in place by December 8th.
Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), the ranking member of the subcommittee that hosted the hearing, said “We have to get the administration, regardless of what administration it is, to take this seriously and put in place a budget that is consistent and would allow S&T to do the work and types of things it needs to do.”
Posted in General News