Democratic News

Jul 10 2002

Energy Committee Explores Role of National Labs In Protecting the Homeland

Chairman Bingaman Concerned With Bush Effort To Consolidate Homeland Security Functions at One Lab

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman today convened that panel to examine the current and future roles that Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories can play in protecting the nation from terrorist threats. Among those testifying at the hearing were Sandia National Laboratories Director Paul Robinson and Don Cobb, the associate laboratory director for threat reduction at Los Alamos National Laboratories. Bingaman called the hearing in light of a proposal by President Bush to consolidate homeland security functions at one of the national labs, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Bingaman has expressed concern to the Bush administration about that proposal because it too narrowly focuses on one location and doesn’t take into account the capability of the DOE complex as a whole. Bingaman delivered the following statement during today’s hearing: “The Administration has recently embraced a move that many people outside the Administration have advocated for some time now – the creation of a cabinet-level agency responsible for addressing threats to our homeland security. To the Administration’s credit, its proposal to create of a Department of Homeland Security gives a nod to the important roles the Department of Energy (DOE) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) national laboratories play in protecting our homeland security. These roles are many, and include developing new technologies to detect and deter terrorist threats, and providing the skilled manpower to help mitigate the consequences of actual terrorist acts. “However, I am concerned that the Administration’s proposal does not recognize the full depth and breadth of the capabilities at the national laboratories, particularly those laboratories that do not have national security as their overriding mission. I believe the new Department must not just be free, but must be encouraged, to draw on needed capabilities wherever they exist, be they in our national laboratories, industry, or universities. “I am also concerned that the Administration’s proposal does not recognize that the programs to be transferred from DOE and NNSA to the new Department of Homeland Security will lack substantial vitality if they are cut off from the larger intellectual and institutional context in which they are now supported. The best scientists want to work in institutions and environments that are pushing up against the frontiers of their field, not in areas that look more like technical service organizations in an institutional context driven by other imperatives. “Finally, I am concerned that the organizational structure proposed for the new Department may result in a disconnect between the people developing new technology to combat terrorism and the people who will ultimately employ this new technology. I believe we must look seriously at creating a position in the new Department that would stand above the various Under Secretaries and have responsibility for developing an integrated R&D program to address a priority list of technologies. “We have with us today an excellent slate of witnesses, and I look forward to a hearing their testimony and engaging in a thorough discussion of the issues I have raised.”