R&D agency looks for recruits

In his debut speech as director of the new Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, David Bolka asked a packed house to help the agency hire technology experts and leaders.

"This is a great opportunity for recruitment," Bolka said at a bidders conference Monday. "We have hiring capability ? that allows us to pay competitive compensation."

The agency wants people who are willing to take on projects two or three years long, he said. It can hire up to 20 people at competitive market rates.

Bolka also released the first request for proposal by the agency. The RFP, for five technical areas to address next-generation biological and chemical detectors, reflects the agency's highest priority, Bolka said.

The agency's budget is $350 million for fiscal 2004, he said. The price tag for the five chemical and biological weapons projects is flexible, but Bolka said the devices eventually produced must be affordable, since they will sit on the shelf for "99.9999 percent of the time." Also, buying the devices or training people to use them cannot be expensive, because the nation's first responders will be the primary users.

The five projects have time lines in three phases from two to four years to get to field-testing prototypes.

"It's important to demonstrate that science and technology can make a difference in [protecting] the country," said Charles McQueary, undersecretary for the science and technology directorate of the Homeland Security Department. "It's important to show the American people as well as ourselves."

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