Homeland Security official details distribution of security funds

Protecting borders and transportation systems command much of the department's budget.

Most of the Homeland Security Department's spending is focused on protecting borders and transportation systems, and it targets immediate needs, experts said Tuesday.

The top 10 department contractors in 2003 received 42 percent of all departmental spending, said Gregory Rothwell, the chief procurement officer at Homeland Security. Only six contractors receive more than $100 million in department contracts, he added, and four out of five contractors are with the Transportation Security Administration.

Overall, the department made 82,192 procurements worth $6.76 billion, of which 88 percent were new contracts, Rothwell said. Top contractors included: Boeing, with $998.5 million; NCS Pearson, $549.5 million; Integrated Coast Guard Systems, $423 million; Unisys, $341 million; and Covenant Aviation Security, $104.8 million.

The most money was spent on the category of alarms, signals and other security systems, followed by other administrative support services, radio navigation (except air), basic services, and telecommunications services.

Software was among the top acquisitions for the Transportation Security Administration, law enforcement training, immigration and customs enforcement, the Secret Service and federal emergency management. The department has scheduled a number of outreach events, and its procurement Web site is http://www.dhs.gov/openforbusiness.

The Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) is targeting its efforts toward countering biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives attacks, according to David Edwards, a staff officer to HSARPA Deputy Director Jane Alexander.

The department soon will begin cyber research through a virtual facility that has been contracted outside government, Edwards said.

The department currently has open requests for bids on detection systems, methods for analyzing "scenes," bioinformatics and container security, Edwards said. Upcoming requests for bids include bomb detection, chemical detection and small-business solicitations. Bids are posted to http://www.fedbizopps.gov, he said.

HSARPA officials will highlight plans for the future at a July conference in San Diego, Edwards said.

Under the HSARPA bid process, providers send short summaries and may be invited to follow with full "white papers" describing their technologies, Edwards said, adding that staffers currently are evaluating hundreds of white papers. He said the agency is more interested in contracts than grants or mutual agreements. The white-paper process allows more communication between submitters and department officials about bids, he added.

Kei Kozuimi, director of the research and development budget and policy program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said defense and homeland security received the majority of the increases in R&D funding in the fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2005 budgets.

Under the White House request for fiscal 2005, Homeland Security R&D spending would increase by 15 percent, by far the most of any agency. "Clearly this is an area where the federal government feels a lot needs to be done," Kozuimi said.

Kozuimi said the majority of spending addresses immediate needs but added that there are signs the department is developing the basis for forward-looking research. He also said the biggest portion of government-wide R&D spending goes to the Health and Human Services Department.