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Friday, October 4, 2013

The DHS S&T Directorate: Selected Issues for Congress

Dana A. Shea
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

Policymakers generally believe that science and technology can and will play significant roles in improving homeland security. When Congress established the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296), it included the Directorate of Science and Technology (S&T) to ensure that the new department had access to science and technology advice and capabilities for research and development (R&D).

The S&T Directorate is the primary organization for R&D in DHS. It conducts R&D in several DHS laboratories and funds R&D conducted by other government agencies, the Department of Energy national laboratories, academia, and the private sector. Additionally, the directorate supports the development of operational requirements and oversees the operational testing and evaluation of homeland security systems for DHS. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 provided direction and broadly defined functions for the Under Secretary for Science and Technology and the S&T Directorate. Within this broad statutory framework, Administration and congressional policymakers face many challenges, including balancing funding for R&D activities, which may not result in a deployable product for many years, with other near-term homeland security needs.

Despite several restructurings and close congressional oversight, the S&T Directorate continues to face difficulties in meeting congressional expectations. The 113
th Congress may consider several policy issues related to the performance of the S&T Directorate. These include

• priority-setting mechanisms for the directorate’s R&D programs, such as strategic planning and targeting high-priority investments;

• the scope of the directorate’s R&D activities, such as balancing incremental efforts with efforts that offer high risk, but high reward;

• efforts to consolidate or disperse R&D activity in or away from the S&T Directorate; and

• the directorate’s role in the DHS acquisition process, both in identifying operational requirements and assessing operational effectiveness.

Date of Report: September 17, 2013
Number of Pages: 39
Order Number: R43064
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