The Obama Administration has nominated Tara O’Toole, director of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, as the chief scientist for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
O’Toole is inheriting a deeply troubled programme. From its inception in 2002, the DHS S&T programme has been a bit of a mess. It’s been slow to release grant money, failed to justify its spending to Congress, and lost its power to other organizations such as the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. Morale has been low and staff turnover high.
In some sense she’s perfect for the job. If confirmed, she will oversee programmes such as BioWatch, which is designed to detect biological attacks. But she’s already drawing criticism over at Danger Room. Among others, George Smith, a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, says that O’Toole is a scaremonger who will pander to the bio-defence industry.
We can probably look forward to some tough questions at her confirmation hearing.