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Homeland R&D chief laments lack of staff

Hundreds of companies have ideas for improving efforts to secure the United States, Homeland Security Undersecretary for Science and Technology Charles McQueary told Congress Thursday. He just needs the employees to evaluate which should get part of the the directorate's $803 million budget request for fiscal 2004 to fund research and development projects.

"My challenge is that I don't have enough people," McQueary told the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. He said the directorate has 40 staffers, a number that is expected to rise to 75 by the end of fiscal 2003 and to a full staff of 150 to 175 by the end of fiscal 2004.

In the near term, McQueary said he and his staff will visit national laboratories, universities and private companies to evaluate existing security-related R&D programs and those already on track for funding. He then will examine what technologies already exist, and he said, "Wherever there are holes, that is where we'll focus our R&D efforts."

McQueary told lawmakers that he views his job as being the top "systems engineer" in homeland security, as well as the top manager of security-related R&D projects that are being conducted at agencies, federal labs, universities and within the private sector. For instance, to avoid duplication, he sees his staff meeting with the Health and Human Services Department's R&D staff to determine what types of research should be done and then funding them.

McQueary said his key areas of emphasis will include: developing and deploying systems to prevent illicit traffic of radiological and nuclear materials and weapons; providing systems to detect and mitigate the consequences of biological and chemical attacks, and illicit explosives; enhancing the missions of all agencies through targeted research, testing and evaluation; protecting the Internet and other critical infrastructures; and preventing technology surprises by anticipating emerging threats.

McQueary said he would look broadly for security technologies, including those developed overseas. "It is important to learn from our international partners ... and we need the best technologies," he said in answer to a question about whether American firms would have preference in getting security contracts.

McQueary also testified before the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday. His written testimony was the same that he submitted to the House, but in verbal testimony he added that the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency is expected to be operating by Oct. 1.