CRS: DHS directorate lacks collaborative spirit

Industry executives find it difficult to work with the Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate because of the agency's lack of responsiveness, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

Officials at the directorate sometimes are hard to reach, the report said, and as a result, the government agency may be missing opportunities to learn about new technology innovations.

"The inability of industry and others to obtain information from the S&T Directorate is a recurring criticism," states the Feb. 1 report. "Entrepreneurs with technologies potentially applicable to homeland security problems have sometimes had difficulty identifying appropriate contacts at the S&T Directorate."

The 51-page report provides an overview of issues for Congress to consider in evaluating the mission and performance of the directorate. Created at the time the department opened its doors in 2003, the directorate is DHS' chief research and development unit, with a budget of $830 million in fiscal 2008.

Congress has been critical of the directorate's management from the beginning, although the report authors say the problems have diminished somewhat as a result of the effort by Undersecretary of Science and Technology Adm. Jay Cohen, who was confirmed in August 2006. He reorganized the management structure.

Even so, fundamental issues continue to present concerns for Congress, according to the CRS report. Among these are:

  • Allocation of research and development funding among basic research, applied research, and development. Also, the proportion of funds allocated to government, industry and academia.

  • Determination of priorities, including its use of strategic planning documents and whether those priorities are based on risk assessments.

  • Effectiveness of the directorate's relationships with the DHS Domestic Nuclear
    Detection Office, Energy Department's national laboratories and other agencies.

  • Definition of the directorate's mission, such as identification of its customers, the scope of its R&D role within DHS and the extent of its non-R&D missions.

  • Budgeting and financial management.

  • Responsiveness to industry and Congress.

  • Use of metrics and goals to measure directorate's performance.


The CRS report was written by Dana Shea, a specialist in science and technology policy, and Daniel Morgan, an analyst in science and technology policy.

An S&T spokeswoman said the directorate has made significant progress in the last 18 months.

"Science & Technology leadership find the report to be well-researched, raising important issues that S&T has already worked diligently to address head-on. For private sector coordination, S&T now has a Chief Commercialization Officer whose primary role is to ensure that the industry has access to, and timely responses from S&T," said spokeswoman Amy Kudwa.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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