DHS' top doc to lead Science and Technology Directorate

The White House announced today that President Bush intends to designate Dr. Jeffrey W. Runge to be acting undersecretary for science and technology at the Homeland Security Department.

Runge currently is the department's chief medical officer, and will remain in that capacity along with his new job as acting undersecretary. He has been leading a small staff on projects related to possible medical emergencies facing the nation. Runge's staff has been working on a computer model that would help federal officials forecast the effect of an avian flu pandemic.

Runge said recently that estimates of the worst effects of such a pandemic have ranged from 200,000 to 2 million deaths in this country. However, he added that many factors about the spread of the virus are unknown, and that such viruses tend to become less virulent as they mutate.

Another DHS technology official said the intelligence community has developed a classified model of the likely effects of an avian flu pandemic in this country.

Before joining DHS last July, Runge worked as administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an appointment he received in 2001. While at NHTSA, Runge spearheaded the 'Click it or Ticket' seat-belt safety program that many observers said was an important factor leading to a decline in highway accident fatalities.

Runge was a professor of emergency medicine and worked in trauma and accident care during his medical career in North Carolina.

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff praised Runge as "a strong leader and a remarkable public servant." Chertoff added that Runge would continue as the department's chief medical officer while he temporarily leads the Science and Technology Directorate as acting undersecretary.

Separately, DHS announced today that Douglas L. Hoelscher has been appointed executive director of the homeland security advisory committees within the new Policy Directorate. Hoelscher most recently worked as DHS' White House liaison and was formerly deputy White House liaison.

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