President Aoun urges protection of homeland security research funding

As Congress is preparing to make dramatic cuts in homeland security research funding, Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun is urging Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown to help preserve the funds.

As president of a university that is home to one of only a few Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence in the country, Aoun wrote in a letter to Kerry and Brown that Northeastern’s Awareness and Localizations of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) Center is “doing extremely important work that will help protect our soldiers and our citizens.”

Reductions in DHS funding are part of the resolution adopted last week that will keep the government funded for a two-week period. Meanwhile, even more significant DHS cuts are proposed in a separate appropriations bill.

“The recently passed continuing resolution would eliminate support for this critical research,” Aoun wrote. “I ask that you contact DHS to oppose these cuts and any similar cuts in subsequent appropriations.”

In his March 7 letter, President Aoun argued that investments in homeland security research support vital, multidisciplinary projects aimed at improving security — one of Northeastern’s top research themes, along with health and sustainability.

Northeastern’s ALERT Center covers four fundamental areas of research: explosives characterization, explosives sensors, explosive detection sensor systems, and blast mitigation.

“I understand the nation faces difficult budgetary constraints, but cutting the Department of Homeland Security and the Centers of Excellence program could jeopardize the nation’s security infrastructure at a time we can ill afford such a move,” he wrote.

This outreach continues President Aoun’s leadership on issues critical to higher education in general and to Northeastern’s mission in particular. In February, he led a coalition of higher education leaders throughout the country in support of the Perkins Student Loan Program, which benefits more than 500,000 low-income college students each year.

Last April, he led a group of college presidents in urging officials at the U.S. Department of Labor to reconsider a plan to regulate unpaid internships.