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August 4, 2003
Volume 81, Number 31
CENEAR 81 31 p. 8
ISSN 0009-2347


Policy Advice Behind Closed Doors


Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) used floor debates over the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) fiscal 2004 spending bill to try to shine light on how the department gets its advice. His amendment--which failed largely along party lines--would have required DHS advisory committees to comply with the open-meeting provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

The law setting up the department exempts its advisory committees from FACA's public disclosure provisions, which has opened DHS up to charges of potential conflicts of interest. Its Homeland Security Advisory Council, for example, is largely composed of representatives from businesses such as Dow Chemical, Eli Lilly, and Conoco Phillips, which are doing or seeking to do business with the department.

"These companies have a direct role in shaping our homeland security policy ... [and] also have direct access to department officials who award the private-sector contracts for implementing those policies," Byrd said. His amendment would have made DHS disclose the names of those giving advice and the recommendations they were offering.

The absence of FACA's sunshine provisions could "have lasting consequences in terms of sealing off the advisory process from public scrutiny," says Steven Aftergood, the Federation of American Scientists' secrecy specialist.


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Copyright © 2003 American Chemical Society

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Homeland Security
[C&EN, Dec. 9, 2002]

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Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.)

Department of Homeland Security's (DHS)

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