North­eastern Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun is leading a group of uni­ver­sity pres­i­dents in sup­port of crit­ical research funding in the U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity budget. Aoun and 11 other pres­i­dents sent a letter to DHS Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano last Thursday urging the Obama admin­is­tra­tion to restore deep cuts in the Sci­ence and Tech­nology (S&T) Direc­torate, which funds a range of tech­no­log­ical advance­ments designed to guard against ter­rorist attacks and disasters.

The Sci­ence and Tech­nology Direc­torate has a track record of funding uni­versity research, including insti­tu­tions such as North­eastern that are among the 11 uni­ver­si­ties nation­wide des­ig­nated as DHS Cen­ters of Excel­lence.

In the letter, Aoun and his fellow pres­i­dents wrote that this funding is essen­tial to the basic research that leads to crit­ical break­throughs in national security.

“The Uni­ver­sity Pro­grams Cen­ters of Excel­lence ini­tia­tive, through which uni­ver­si­ties under­take applied research on a fast-turnaround basis, has demon­strated a sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive return on invest­ment,” the pres­i­dents wrote. “In con­junc­tion with industry part­ners and national lab­o­ra­to­ries, uni­ver­sity con­tri­bu­tions in devel­oping new secu­rity tech­nolo­gies — from advances in explo­sives detec­tion to devel­op­ment of under­water sen­sors to mit­i­gating the effects of nat­ural dis­as­ters — argues for addi­tional investment.”

The uni­ver­sity pres­i­dents noted that these vital research invest­ments also spark the inno­va­tion that is crit­ical to growing the nation’s economy. Steep reduc­tions in funding, they wrote, could lead to sig­nif­i­cant private-sector job losses and a weak­ening of efforts to ensure the nation’s security.

The group also expressed a shared com­mit­ment to working in part­ner­ship with Sec­re­tary Napoli­tano to pro­duce the inno­va­tion solu­tions nec­es­sary to pre­serve America’s future safety. This letter serves as the first step of what will be a year­long effort to advo­cate in Wash­ington for Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity sci­ence and tech­nology research funding for fiscal year 2013.

The letter comes on the heels of Aoun’s visit to Wash­ington in Sep­tember, when he met with Sec­re­tary Napoli­tano and other senior DHS offi­cials about Northeastern’s long­standing com­mit­ment to secu­rity research and the oppor­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by the university’s recently-unveiled George J. Kostas Research Insti­tute for Home­land Secu­rity. The Kostas Research Insti­tute will build on its strength in explo­sives detec­tion, cyber secu­rity, under­water robotics and national resilience.

Aoun’s lead­er­ship in forming this coali­tion aligns with Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to use-inspired research that solves global chal­lenges in secu­rity, health and sustainability.

Aoun has taken lead­er­ship roles in addressing other crit­ical higher edu­ca­tion issues on the national stage. Last Feb­ruary, he led a coali­tion of higher edu­ca­tion leaders throughout the country to urge the Obama admin­is­tra­tion to pre­serve the Perkins stu­dent loan pro­gram, which ben­e­fits more than 500,000 low-income col­lege stu­dents each year.  In 2010, Aoun led a group of col­lege pres­i­dents in urging cau­tion amid the U.S. Depart­ment of Labor’s plan to reg­u­late unpaid intern­ships, in which he argued for pro­tecting the value of expe­ri­en­tial learning — a sig­na­ture of Northeastern’s edu­ca­tional model.