University President Steven Knapp and 11 other research institution leaders petitioned a federal agency to maintain funding for homeland security research after steep budget cuts this year.
The Jan. 25 letter urged Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to prioritize research funds in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Congress voted last year to decrease research funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate by 54 percent for fiscal year 2012, slashing the directorate’s budget by nearly $200 million.
The directorate oversees research concerning maritime and border security, chemical weaponry and cyber attacks. The research is then used to develop new federal defense policies.
This research merits continued investment because it contributes to new security technologies, according to the letter, “from advances in explosives detection to development of underwater sensors to mitigating the effects of natural disasters.”
The presidents of the University of Maryland and Northeastern, Carnegie Mellon, Drexel and Rutgers universities were among the signatories of the letter.
Knapp said the field’s significance nationwide made it a priority for the University.
“It’s important to show that universities strongly support maintaining the federal investment in homeland security research at a time when many government agencies are facing budget cuts,” Knapp said in an e-mail.
Vice President for Research Leo Chalupa said in September that the University is looking to develop corporate partnerships to help compensate for shrinking federal research funds.
Knapp suggested that cuts to homeland security research funding could compromise opportunities to understand national security threats, citing “the vulnerability of hospitals, power grids and financial markets to cyber attacks.”
The Department of Homeland Security funded about $1.6 million in University grants and contracts in fiscal year 2011 compared to $1.85 million the year before, University spokeswoman Candace Smith said.
Knapp emphasized GW’s strategic location in D.C., adding that homeland security spans many disciplines across the school.
“Homeland security is also a field in which we have broad expertise, from policy to law to cybersecurity training and technology,” Knapp said.
The Department plans to “respond directly” to the university presidents’ message, Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Nicole Stickel said, though she did not give a timeframe.