Lawmakers press HSD on technology, cybersecurity

Members of a subcommittee of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security yesterday quizzed Charles McQueary, the department's undersecretary for science and technology, on how they could channel vendor requests to the department.

Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), chairman of the full committee, also pressed McQueary on whether funds allocated for cybersecurity research in the fiscal 2004 budget will be adequate.

McQueary said the Science and Technology Directorate has received more than 500 e-mail messages to science.technology@dhs.gov, many offering research proposals for homeland security projects. McQueary said he reviews all the e-mails, passes some on to his staff of about 50, and answers some himself.

'I even received an e-mail message from a high school student,' McQueary said. 'I answered it myself, because I thought that if a high school student would take the time to write me, I should respond.'

The Science and Technology Directorate also will receive proposals for research work via a Broad Agency Announcement released by the Pentagon's Technical Support Working Group at www.tswg.gov. The BAA calls for proposals in IT fields such as statistical data mining of network traffic and modeling of computer networks, among other topics.

'Our primary focus today is to investigate what [technology] is out in America that can be put in the test stage and then into manufacturing,' McQueary said.

Rep. William 'Mac' Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Science, and Research and Development, joined ranking member Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and several other subcommittee members in asking how they could channel inquiries from companies in their districts that seek to do business with the Science and Technology Directorate. 'We are going to use the Technical Support Working Group to review some of the 500 e-mails and follow the recommendations of that group,' McQueary said.

Cox asked McQueary whether the $5 million devoted to cybersecurity research in the administration's planned 2004 budget would be adequate. Cox cited Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge's recent statement before the full committee that the department's Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate would be assuming additional cybersecurity functions.

McQueary said the $5 million planned for cybersecurity research could be increased if necessary by using money from other programs. With cybersecurity duties 'now focused in the IAIP, that [funding] will have to be refocused. We will supply the number of people needed for that mission,' he said.

McQueary said the directorate's staff would increase to about 180 employees in fiscal 2004 under the administration's budget proposal.

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