WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security plans to close a New York-based laboratory that has helped the city’s Police and Fire Departments develop systems to detect nuclear and biological threats, a move that some local officials fear could hamper the city’s efforts to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks.
The radiological program that the facility, the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory, developed with the New York Fire Department is widely considered the national standard, and technologies it has tested are in widespread use around the country. It has also worked on systems to combat drug trafficking and money laundering: Portable card readers it tested have helped officials recover millions of dollars in drug proceeds smuggled across borders using gift and other prepaid cards.
“The lab has provided an invaluable amount of information to us over the years, including helping us understand biological and nuclear threats when nobody understood that stuff,” said Gerard McCarty, the director of emergency management at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “And they continue to provide critical support to us in researching and testing technologies.”
The Trump administration has proposed closing the lab as part of larger cuts it envisions for the Department of Homeland Security’s scientific research and development programs. The administration’s budget would cut funding for these programs by more than 18 percent, from $771 million in the last fiscal year to $627 million this year, according to budget documents.