Jewish World Review June 7, 2002 / 27 Sivan, 5762

Dee Ann Divis and Scott Burnell

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Bush: Refocus $cience on terrorism -- WASHINGTON (UPI) -- President George W. Bush's proposal for a new Department of Homeland Security would refocus some of the nation's science and research spending to meet anti-terrorism needs, bringing key nuclear research facilities into the fight against terrorist attacks, administration officials announced Thursday.

Plans for the huge new agency released by the White House include research efforts protecting nuclear stockpiles and detecting the transport of nuclear materials -- particularly at points of entry into the United States -- in addition to other tasks. Leading part of the effort as a new center of excellence for anti-terrorism will be Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., now a part of the Department of Energy.

"The president has concluded that there needs to be someplace within the executive branch of government to give a strategic vision to the research and development that has an impact on either detection, protection or response to a weapon of mass destruction," a senior official told reporters in advance of the president's nationally televised address Thursday night.

Lawrence Livermore was a key center for nuclear weapons research throughout the Cold War. The Bush administration has been deeply concerned that nuclear weapons or radioactive nuclear waste could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used in an attack within the country's borders. The administration is seeking new ways to detect and protect the U.S. population against nuclear weapons and other "weapons of mass destruction," including biological weapons and chemical agents.

More than 300 people and roughly $1.2 billion of the fiscal year 2003 request for LLNL would be shifted to the new department.

Portions of the Department Health and Human Services also will be shifted over, the official said. Part of the task under the new homeland security department will be to monitor public and private databases for indications of a bioterror attack and track data from sensors placed in high population areas to detect the release of bioterror weapons.

The homeland plan will shift almost 150 people and $2 billion devoted to "civilian biodefense research programs" from HHS. This umbrella term covers work being done by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Centers for Disease Control 's National Center for Infectious Diseases and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

In cases of science, research and health activities, part of the effort may simply be a redirection of research dollars toward a more focused, anti-terror strategy.

"These dollars will come to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and they will direct them to the NIH, the CDC, to Lawrence Livermore, to Sandia (National Laboratories), whatever," said the official.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology may also be tapped for anti-terror efforts. NIST's laboratories in Gaithersburg, Md., and Boulder, Colo., already measure basic physical phenomena and set standards followed by all high-tech industries.

NIST would be a natural resource for the new department's job of assisting state and local agencies in evaluating countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. Whether or not it will be brought under the new department was unclear Thursday, however.

Although NIST is highlighted in a chart showing contributors to homeland security, the White House's budget estimate for the new department's activities does not mention the agency.

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