Researchers at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) want to improve communications with the private sector, and the Security Industry Association (SIA) is helping them do it.
DHS undersecretary Dr. Reginald Brothers, who manages the department’s Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, emphasized the importance of building “a strong, engaged industrial base that services the enterprise” in an address to the SIA Government Summit at the W Hotel in Washington, D.C., on June 3.
In one of his first public speaking appearances since his confirmation by the Senate as DHS undersecretary, Brothers called upon assembled business leaders, including integrator representatives, to tell him where DHS research should be going. DHS S&T will strive to improve outward-facing communications and share roadmaps as well, Brothers said.
The undersecretary pondered the challenges of keeping pace with technological innovations but also technological adoption. The traditional telephone took about 100 years to be adopted by 80 percent of the population, he noted. But accelerated technology resulted in the adoption of the cellphone by 80 percent of the population in only 10 years.
Meanwhile, technological innovations have shifted from physics-based innovations in the early 20th century to biological-based innovations today.
“We need your help with understanding what this means,” Brothers said. “What can you do with this convergence in technology? What kind of capabilities can that help us provide to our customers and stakeholders?”
In his previous job at the Pentagon, Brothers reflected that he was excited by the potential of technology and material to solve problems for U.S. troops. But he learned the importance of the “human dimension,” including leadership and training. For example, the Department of Defense assessed increasing the endurance of a soldier with the use of micro-cooling technology, which had nothing to do with weapons systems.
In the same way, Brothers solicited input from industry as to how DHS S&T can be a force multiplier for other DHS agencies. While it’s true those agencies will seek better interoperable communications, sensors and analytics, DHS also must consider better training and better ways of equipping first responders to deal with harsh environments, he said.
So Brothers wants to look across domains and to develop the capability to do so with a systems-to-systems approach.
One way DHS will do that is through partnership with industry groups like SIA. Last October, DHS S&T and SIA signed an agreement to bring together DHS employees, first responders, end users and industry experts to exchange information and resolve technical challenges to achieve common homeland security objectives. This was the first time that SIA has signed such an agreement with a federal agency.
DHS officials are planning to put this agreement into action by working with the subcommittees under the SIA Government Relations program, providing access to administrators at the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) and other units of DHS S&T. In so doing, DHS will look at ways to make its research and development efforts more operational in nature, Brothers said, following the example of the S&T APEX programs, which have started to put more resources to particular problems, developed in coordination with DHS components.
Meanwhile, the S&T Directorate also wants to bring more balance to its near- and long-term research portfolio by projecting requirements 18 months, three years, five years and even further out. To do that, DHS needs help from our industry.
“Where should the homeland security enterprise be with respect to capability in 20 or 30 years?” Brothers asked. “Where do you want our capability to be?”
DHS cannot answer those questions without the input of the industrial base, which must inform the department of what makes sense in the marketplace, Brothers said.
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