Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate

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The Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate is the primary research and development arm of the Department of Homeland Security. Created in 2003, its "mission is to protect the homeland by providing Federal, State, local, and Tribal officials with state-of-the-art technology and resources.” [1]

The S&T Directorate does not have a specific statutory mandate; instead, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 grants the S&T Directorate's head, the Under Secretary of the S&T Directorate, a wide-ranging list of authorities and responsibilities. The current Under Secretary is Dr. Tara O'Toole, (DHS bio here).[2] a biosecurity expert who has been criticized for overemphasizing terrorist threats to the U.S. [3]

The S&T Directorate's 2010 budget was over $1 billion. [4] Congress is currently considering a reauthorization bill that would appropriate $2.9 billion to S&T over a two year period. [5]

In FY 2008 (the most recent data available), DHS spent the majority of its R&D funds in industrial firms (43.1 percent), followed by federal intramural laboratories (25.1 percent). 20.1 percent of R&D funds went to federally funded research and development centers (FFRDC national laboratories, mostly DOE labs), and 6.3 percent of DHS R&D was spent in universities and colleges.[6]

S&T Directorate Structure:

The Science and Technology Directorate focuses on research and development across six primary divisions:[2][7]

  • The Borders and Maritime Security Division (website here) aims to "stop dangerous things and dangerous people from entering the country." The Director for the Borders and Maritime Security Division is Mrs. Anh N. Duong. Examples of this division's projects can be found here. (FY2009 funding: $33.0 million)
  • The Human Factors Behavioral Sciences Division (website here) applies the social and behavioral sciences to improve detection, analysis, and understanding and response to homeland security threats. Dr. Sharla Rausch is the Director for the Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Division (HFD), and a list of the division's projects is here. (FY2009 funding: $12.5 million)
  • The Chemical and Biological Division (website here) works to increase the nation's preparedness against chemical and biological threats through improved threat awareness, advanced surveillance and detection, and protective countermeasures. The Director for the Chemical and Biological Division is Elizabeth George. Examples of this division's projects can be found here. (FY2009 funding: $200.4 million)
  • The Command, Control, and Interoperability Division (website here) develops interoperable communication standards and protocols for emergency responders, cyber security tools for protecting the integrity of the Internet, and automated capabilities to recognize and analyze potential threats." This division is broken into five areas (Basic/Futures Research; Cyber Security; Knowledge Management Tools; Office for Interoperability and Compatibility; and Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Investigative Technologies), each with their own director; more information can be found on the division's website. A list of this division's projects can be found here. (FY2009 funding: $74.9 million)
  • The Explosives Division (website here) develops the technical capabilities to detect, interdict, and lessen the impacts of non-nuclear explosives used in terrorist attacks against mass transit, civil aviation, and critical infrastructure. The Director for the Explosives Division is Jim Tuttle, and a list of the division's projects can be found here. (FY2009 funding: $96.1 million)
  • The Infrastructure and Geophysical Division's (website here) mission "is to improve and increase the nation’s preparedness for and response to natural and man-made threats through superior situational awareness, emergency response capabilities, and critical infrastructure protection." The "Critical Infrastructure Protection Thrust Area" focuses on 18 critical infrastructures key resources (CIKR) sectors identified in the National Infrastructure Protection Plan, including food/agriculture, commercial facilities, banking/finance, government facilities, national monuments, and others listed on the division's website. Christopher Doyle is the Director for the Infrastructure and Geophysical Division (IGD), and projects can be found here. (FY2009 funding: $75.8 million)

The S&T Directorate pursues these areas by funding three "portfolios," or "silos:" ideas that fix current problems with no obvious solution, creative solutions to long-term issues and new breakthroughs. S&T also coordinates with other agencies pursuing relevant scientific research. [8].

  • The Research Portfolio addresses long-term research needs in support of the Department of Homeland Security mission areas that will provide the nation with an enduring capability in homeland security. The Office of Research includes the directorate’s Laboratory Facilities (FY2009 funding: $161.9 million) and University Programs (FY2009 funding: $50.3 million), and the Program Executive Office - Counter Improvised Explosives Devices."
  • The Innovation/Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) Portfolio "focuses on homeland security research and development that could lead to significant breakthroughs and greatly enhance departmental operations." (FY2009 funding: $33.0 million)
  • The Transition Portfolio "focuses on delivering capabilities that Department components and first responders can rely on to meet their operational needs. The Transition Portfolio includes the Commercialization Office, the Safety Act Office, the Long Range Broad Agency Announcement Program, and the Technology Transfer Program."[2]

Although Sec. 306(a) of the Homeland Security Act directs that “to the greatest extent practicable, research conducted or supported by the department shall be unclassified,” DHS has classified authority also funds some R&D "Special Programs projects.


Two years after the S&T Directorate was created, Congressional dissatisfaction with the Directorate led it to take the nuclear detection mission away from the Directorate and give it to a newly-created Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (the DNDA was returned to S&T in 2010).

In 2006, the House Appropriations Committee said it was “concerned about the ability of [the] S&T [Directorate] to advance the use of science and technology in battling terrorism and against other hazards related to homeland security,”[9] and the Senate Appropriations Committee called the directorate “a rudderless ship without a clear way to get back on course” and said it was “extremely disappointed with the manner in which [the] S&T [Directorate] is being managed.” [10] [11]

In 2007, Congress dramatically slashed S&T's funding, rescinding $125 million in unspent R&D funds, cut most research programs, and required the Directorate to submit a five-year research plan with priorities, performance, and research needs for each area. Even after rescissions and budget cuts, the Directorate still had nearly $300 million in unspent funds to carry over to FY 2008.

In 2007, Business Week published a three-part series expressing concern that the Department of Homeland Security invests too much time and money in short-term technologies that fill present security gaps at the disadvantage of long-term technological progress. [12] According to the article,

Some experts . . . fret that too narrow a research focus could leave the U.S. unprepared for threats that can't be foreseen, as was the case with the shoe bomber. "The concern about research being too applied and focused on current agendas is that we're not therefore planning for the war after next or for the national security horizon after the one that we can see," says John Kao, a consultant and author of the book Innovation Nation, which argues that the U.S. is losing its innovation edge. "Your model for what constitutes valuable technology will change a lot depending on what you think the threat is."
In just the few years since the government created the Homeland Security Dept., priorities already have shifted. At first, the main focus was on terrorism, but emergency preparedness took on added urgency after Hurricane Katrina. "There's been a lot of give and take between Congress and Science & Technology about what kinds of threats DHS needs to address," says Koizumi of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Business Week also published a table of underperforming DHS IT contracts.

Signs of Improvement, but Plenty of Room for Further Progress

The S&T Directorate has shown some progress. In 2007, the Senate Appropriations Committee stated that it was “pleased with the rapid progress S&T appears to be making toward resolving past difficulties. The new Under Secretary has restructured the directorate’s programs, worked to obligate resources in a timely fashion, and instituted a capable budget office able to deliver timely, accurate, and comprehensible documents.”[13]

A 2009 evaluation by the National Academy for Public Administration (NAPA) found that that although DHS has made “great strides,” particularly in the last three years, towards becoming a “mature and productive” R&D organization, its success was limited by three overall factors: lack of a cohesive overall strategy, insularity (and in particular the lack of effective peer review, transparency, and competitive funding), and the lack of systematic performance assessment mechanisms.[6]

In response to the NAPA report, S&T has stated they need to apply a "risk-based methodology" to determine what projects to fund, how much to fund, and how to evaluate a project's effectiveness; such metrics are difficult to develop considering many projects never transition into actual acquisition programs. [14] [15]

Concerns particularly remain over the Directorate's ability to balance effectiveness against privacy and civil liberties.

Recent Legislation

On July 20, 2010 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4842, the “Homeland Security Science and Technology Authorization Act of 2010”. The bill would appropriate $2.9 billion over a two year period, approximately $11 per American. [5]

The bipartisan legislation was introduced by the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science and Technology. The legislation "reauthorizes the activities of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) and puts these two DHS components on a path to greater effectiveness and efficiency by requiring strategic plans, benchmarking, and accountability systems." It also requires the Science and Technology Directorate to give special attention to border security, and "authorizes an Office of Public-Private Partnerships to increase outreach and to ensure technological innovations get quick review at the Department as well as a new Rapid Review Division to assess unsolicited proposals"[16]

As of October 9, 2010, the bill was still awaiting approval in the Senate.[5]

External Links

Directorate for Science & Technology Profile, WhoRunsGov.Com / The Washington Post, accessed August 26, 2010.

DHS Science and Technology Directorate website


  1. Under Secretary for Science and Technology Jay M. Cohen, Department of Homeland Security, testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Science, and Technology, September 7, 2006.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 DHS Science and Technology Directorate Structure, DHS Website, accessed August 20, 2010.
  3. Noah Schactman, DHS New Geek in Chief is a Biodefense Disaster Critics Charge "Wired Danger Room Blog", May 6, 2009.
  4. Homeland Security Department: FY2011 Appropriations, accessed Nov. 3, 2010.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 H.R. 4842 Homeland Security Science and Technology Authorization Act of 2010], 111th Congress,, accessed October 9, 2010.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gerald L. Epstein, [ Department of Homeland Security: AAAS], American Association for the Advancement of Science, July 2010.
  7. Division funding data from Dana Shea and Daniel Morgan, The DHS Directorate of Science and Technology: Key Issues for Congress, June 22 2009, available at
  8. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named who runs gov
  9. H.Rept. 109-476, p. 110
  10. S.Rept. 109-273, p. 88.
  11. see also Dana Shea and Daniel Morgan, The DHS Directorate of Science and Technology: Key Issues for Congress, June 22 2009, available at
  12. Rachael King, Is Homeland Security Too Focused on Now?, Business Week December 20, 2007.
  13. S.Rept. 110-84, p. 113.
  14. March 3, 2010, [ “The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate”, House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, and Science and Technology.
  15. Center for Technology and National Security Policy National Defense University, Risk-Informed Decisionmaking S&T, September 2010.
  16. "House Passes Bipartisan Homeland Security Technology Bill", July 20, 2010 press release from the House Committee on Homeland Security, accessed September 5, 2010.