The Baltimore Jewish Times had an interesting article last week on a current proposal in Congress to create an office of counterterrorism cooperation in the Department of Homeland Security:
For years, American law enforcement and security experts have been looking to Israel for the latest in homeland security practices. Now Congress is hoping to work with Israel and other at-risk countries to develop science and technology applications to fight terrorism.
Israel advocates are behind new legislation that would create an office within the Department of Homeland Security for counterterrorism cooperation between the United States and its allies. Israel is one of a handful of countries named in the legislation that U.S. officials believe could provide technological assistance….
The bill creates a new office and grant program in the Homeland Security Department that would foster cooperation between research and development communities in the United States and countries like Israel. Also mentioned are the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Singapore.
The bill was introduced by Thompson and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, as well as the chairman and ranking Democrat on the subcommittee on emergency preparedness, science and technology, Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.). It was unanimously approved by the subcommittee last month….
Thompson said the United States would be able to provide seed money for many projects. The bill states that not less than 2.5 percent of the research, development, testing and evaluation budget for the Directorate of Science and Technology at Homeland Security each year should go to international programs.
The bill in question is H.R. 4942, the “Promoting Antiterrorism Capabilities Through International Cooperation Act.”
I’m strongly supportive of the need for stronger international cooperation on homeland security R&D, and it makes sense to require the S&T directorate to enhance its international activities. But I have two concerns with the legislation. First, it makes no mention of the existing DHS Office of International Affairs (located within the DHS policy directorate); that office should have a formal oversight or coordination role for any new international R&D efforts. Second, I think it’s a bad idea for the bill to list specific countries; it makes more sense instead to establish criteria (e.g. NATO or other alliance relationship, country status on export control measures, willingness to match funds) rather than to suggest or prescribe in advance the countries with which the S&T directorate should partner. But other than these two issues, I hope that the ideas in this bill find their way into authorizing and appropriations legislation and are passed into law in the next few months.