Last month, there were three significant congressional committee hearings dealing with the Department of Homeland Security biodefense budget for FY’08. The Science and Technology Directorate’s budget request reached $799.1 million including $142.6 million for Administration and $656.5 million for research, development, testing and evaluation. A big chunk of that budget, $228.9 million was requested for Chemical and Biological security. The Department as well as the directorate has been significantly restructured in the past year after a, shall we say, rocky couple of years. It will be interesting to see what happens with the budget and how the reorganization of the biosecurity programs will play out. On the whole, they appear to be taking steps in the right direction to clean up their act.
Jerry Epstein from the Center for Strategic and International Studies testified before the Committee on Science and Technology regarding the FY’08 Biodefense budget at the Department of Homeland Security. Notably, Epstein comments on the transfer of the Biowatch program to the Office of Health Affairs, the creation of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority within the Department of Health and Human Services, and comments on classified biodefense research.
Undersecretary for Science and Technology Hon. Jay Cohen testified before the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Homeland Security. Admiral Cohen discussed the restructuring of the S+T directorate, fiscal responsibility within the agency, and their focus on etting products out of their research and development programs.
Dr. Jeffrey Runge, Chief Medical Officer for the Departments Office of Health Affairs also testified before the House appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Homeland Security where he discussed the new role of the Office of Health Affairs in BioWatch and how they will be cooperating with the S+T directorate. Dr. Runge was the Chief Medical Officer for the Department and in January of this year, the CMO office was renamed the Office of Health Affairs and given a larger role in directing the Departments Biosecurity Programs.