By a vote of 268-150, the House has passed legislation to make appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The legislation provides funding for the DHS Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology. Specifically, the bill recommends $646 million for Research, Development, Acquisition, and Operations, including advanced research projects, development, test and evaluation, acquisition, and operations. The House recommendation is $10 million below the President’s request and just over $100 million less than the FY 2007 enacted amount (after transfer to the Offices of Health Affairs and Emergency Communications). Further, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate has a 32 percent staff vacancy rate; 39 positions will not be filled until late FY 2007 and 38 positions will continue to remain vacant until FY 2008. The Committee stated, “Because these vacant positions were fully funded in 2007, the Committee believes that the fiscal year 2008 request is overstated and that half year funding for many of these positions in 2008 is appropriate.”

Also of note, the House Appropriations Committee fully funded the BioWatch Generation 3 program; however, $13 million requested to purchase 125 low rate initial production units was denied until the Science and Technology Directorate reviews and responds to a National Academies study that investigates the effectiveness of the BioWatch detection system. BioWatch is a DHS program that works in conjunction with several other federal agencies to monitor and detect the release of pathogens in the air and provide warning to the government and public health officials in the event of a bioterrorism act.

Within the Science and Technology Directorate at DHS, there are several laboratories conducting biological research including the Environmental Measurements Laboratory which deals with issues in environmental radiation and the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center which assesses biological threats to the country, utilizes biological methods to identify criminals, and uses bioforensics to determine origin and method of attack. Other research laboratories under the jurisdiction of DHS include the Plum Island Animal Disease Center and the Transportation Security Laboratory.

 


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