Next year's budget for science and technology at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be drastically downsized under a spending bill passed yesterday by the House of Representatives. The legislation would reduce current funding for the S&T directorate by 52%, from $827 million to $398 million. By comparison, the Obama Administration has requested $1.2 billion for that program in fiscal year 2012, which begins on 1 October.
The cuts to S&T are part of a $1.1 billion reduction in the agency's overall budget, now $43.4 billion, and in line with a plan by House Republicans to rein in spending across the government. "This bill includes robust spending reductions in bureaucracy and on programs that are not producing, cutting waste, reducing spending and instilling genuine budget discipline," Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, told The Hill.
DHS officials say the decrease in the directorate's budget will wipe out dozens of programs, stalling the development of technologies for border protection, detection of bio-hazards, and cargo screening. In addition, "there will be no investments in domestic IED [improvised explosives device] detection, leaving mass transit vulnerable to attacks," according to an official who spoke to ScienceInsider. "Essential research needed to understand and counter violent extremism will be crippled."
Agency officials are hoping that the Senate will restore some of the cuts when it takes up the spending bill in the coming weeks. But a final number is unlikely until the White House and Congress agree on government-wide spending levels and raising the debt ceiling, contentious issues that may take months to resolve. So stay tuned.