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Agencies need to coordinate homeland security research, senators say

A great deal of money for homeland security and research for new technologies to combat terrorism is tucked in agency budgets across the government. The trick is to coordinate efforts throughout government to ensure that efforts are not duplicated and that the research results will be effective, senators said during a Wednesday hearing.

"One of our great strengths is our ability to deliver new technology to the market and to the battlefield," said Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu, chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee.

Transforming defense planning to a "capabilities-based" model that anticipates how a foe might fight and identifying ways to deter attacks will require investments in science and technology, said Ronald Sega, director of research and engineering at the Defense Department. The goal is to identify technology that can be used in the short term and make investments that will have long-term benefits, he said.

But displaying a chart resembling a jigsaw puzzle, Landrieu noted that it represented agencies charged with homeland security. Technology can play a major role in strengthening the defense systems, but decision makers "must search for ways to increase investment and make the investment work for the American people," she said.

Landrieu added that "it is encouraging but daunting" to see White House efforts to coordinate homeland defense initiatives among the different agencies.

"The challenge of coordination is great but not impossible," said John Marburger, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. OSTP's role is to coordinate federal research and development efforts among agencies, and it does so primarily through the National Science and Technology Council, he said.

The fiscal 2003 budget request would allocate $37.7 billion for homeland security and $112 billion for research and development. Of the R&D funds, $3 billion would be allocated for combating terrorism, with $2.4 billion slated for protection against biological weapons.

OSTP's efforts also "reach beyond the federal government," Marburger said, extending to the science community, the private sector and higher education.

Dale Klein, assistant defense secretary of nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, noted that his group's mission is clear, but "what is less clear is how does [the Defense Department] interface with the Office of Homeland Security."

Klein noted that his team has a lot of expertise that could be used among state and local law enforcement, but he said Defense should determine how to share that information.

One area where information sharing is lacking is in combating the trafficking of nuclear materials, said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

A soon-to-be-released General Accounting Office report found that U.S. technology has been installed abroad--in Russia, for example--to detect nuclear materials, but U.S. borders are without such devices. "That is not right," Roberts said.