House lawmakers blast security department's science chief

One year after creation of the Homeland Security Department, patience for the department's science and technology directorate appears to have run out on Capitol Hill.

Directorate chief Charles McQueary faced brusque treatment at the hands of appropriators Tuesday. "I think you can sense the level of frustration in your funding committee," said House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky.

McQueary's lack of knowledge that his office is expected to produce a review of the nation's airline security system by May provoked Rogers.

"I'm absolutely more than troubled. I'm irate," Rogers said after McQueary said he had not been approached by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on the issue. Rogers said that in a "heated" November meeting, Ridge had promised to direct McQueary to conduct the review because the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is to blame for continued inconveniences and risk to passengers.

"You will get back to me by the close of the secretary's day," Rogers said to McQueary. "Well, that's strike one."

But the harshest words came from Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who attacked Maureen McCarthy, the science and technology division's research and development director. Wamp said McCarthy had promised in a meeting to offer projects valued at $40 million to $60 million to Oak Ridge Laboratory, which is in his district, but it has been offered projects totaling only $7.4 million.

"This has been a debacle under McCarthy's leadership and direction," Wamp said. "Somebody is not hearing the whole story. I'm afraid it's you, not me."

McQueary steadfastly defended McCarthy and said there is so much misunderstanding over the laboratory-selection process that it had to be modified.

"I'm very concerned about the future of this directorate" Wamp replied.

McQueary then said, "Sir, I want to tell you that not a single other member of Congress besides yourself has tried to bring pressure on me about how we spend money on the national labs."

McQueary also was criticized for his decision to stay out of the selection process for university "centers of excellence" until the final stages involving site visits, and he was pressed to say that the decision by the White House Office of Management and Budget to cut funding for the centers was not based on a detailed analysis of the security risks involved.

McQueary said that relevant entities, including the Agriculture Department, are involved in the centers selection. He said he was "stunned" to learn from Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, that Agriculture officials say they have been left out of the process.

"I share Mr. Wamp's concern about the direction we're going here," Latham said. He said his district contains the top center for plant diseases but "can't even get a site visit" from the agency. "I don't get it," Latham said.

McQueary said the decisions are based on the quality of the proposals received. "Some people can write good proposals and some people can't," he said, adding that a screening process is the only way to manage the nearly 1,800 potentially eligible centers.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.