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How S&T drives innovation at DHS

Apr. 23, 2014 - 01:13PM   |  
By CHUCK BROOKS   |   Comments
Chuck Brooks serves as vice president/client executive for DHS at Xerox. He served as the first director of legislative affairs for the Science & Technology Directorate at DHS. Chuck was an Adjunct Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins University where he taught homeland security and he also spent six years on Capitol Hill as a senior advisor to the late Sen. Arlen Specter.
Chuck Brooks serves as vice president/client executive for DHS at Xerox. He served as the first director of legislative affairs for the Science & Technology Directorate at DHS. Chuck was an Adjunct Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins University where he taught homeland security and he also spent six years on Capitol Hill as a senior advisor to the late Sen. Arlen Specter. (Courtesy of Chuck Brooks)

Recently, Dr. Reggie Brothers received Senate confirmation to serve as the new Undersecretary for Science & Technology (S & T) at the Department of Homeland Security. Dr. Brothers most recently served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research. He is an excellent choice and is well respected for his technological acumen in both the public and private sector.

The S & T Directorate at DHS, which Dr. Brothers will lead, was created at the inception of the DHS in 2003 and has a unique mission. That mission, as described in the 2015 budget, “is to improve homeland security by working with partners to provide state-of-the-art technology and solutions to achieve their missions.”

With a $1 billion plus annual budget and over 1,100 personnel, the S & T Directorate is always looking to the future for specialized needs to “effectively and efficiently prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from all-hazards and homeland security threats.”

S & T looks to research, develop, facilitate, and sometimes commercialize operational solutions and capabilities for all the components of DHS. It also serves as the interface with other governmental and industry partners. Their work is highly collaborative and they are, in a real sense, the catalyst for technological innovation and implementation in the agency. In the 2015 budget, there is an interesting array of proposed projects in primarily six investment areas: first responders, borders and maritime, explosives, cybersecurity, chem-bio defense, and resilience.

The focus of S & T for first responders is mostly in the area of wireless interoperability and compatibility. 9/11 and natural disasters have provided lessons learned in the need for law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and others to be able to communicate securely and share real-time information. New hardware and software technologies have been introduced and instituted into trainings and protocols. Much progress has been made in communications in the past decade, but there is always room for upgrades and improvement.

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In borders and maritime, S & T is testing, developing and integrating new surveillance technologies to do maritime domain awareness, cargo security, and to help secure the borders. New systems to monitor and detect border intrusions and tunnel detection are also in the works.

In explosive detection, S & T is working on next generation passenger integration screening systems that will provide higher resolution, better false alarm rates, and improved threat detection capabilities at airports and facilities protection. Furthermore, new technologies are being developed for checked baggage screening to cost effectively detect a wider range of explosives threat materials for mass transit. Perhaps most interesting is the “Checkpoint of the Future” that will also employ biometrics and counter-terrorist human factor analysis to identify and mitigate threats.

Because of the catastrophic implications of weapons of mass destruction attacks, rapid biological and chemical detection has always been a top priority. S & T in cooperation with the National Labs operates Plum Island, the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, the Chemical Security Analysis Center, the National Bioforensics Analysis Center, and the planned National Bio & Agro-Defense Facility to prevent, detect, analyze, and provide counter measures to contain biological pandemic and chemical threats. The caliber and expertise of scientists working in these diagnostic research areas is really exceptional.

As a result of Presidential Directive, the DHS’s role in cybersecurity has been significantly heightened, especially when it comes to protecting America’s critical infrastructure. S & T has invested in incubating cybersecurity “Leap Ahead” technologies in open source technology development and mobile device security. The Directorate is also helping commercialize promising new cybersecurity and information analytic technologies developed in the National Labs, universities, and the commercial industry.

In another key critical infrastructure area, S& T is testing super conducting technology to “increase the reliability, flexibility and resiliency of the Nation’s electric grid.” The Directorate also is collaborating with FEMA in disaster resilience that includes modeling and simulation for various scenarios, materials science for more secure infrastructures, and sustainable communications.

Additionally, the DHS Directorate maintains numerous Centers for Excellence with academic institution in basic and applied research and helps fund early and prototype stage projects via The Homeland Advanced Research Projects Agency in all the mission areas described.

The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review taking place this year will explore future focus areas for S & T in the next four years. Dr. Brothers is at the helm in an exciting era for the Directorate. Advanced manufacturing, nanotechnologies, quantum computing, robotics, and algorithmic advances in big data analytics will impact how and where S & T allocates its resources and know-how in developing and applying technologies that help safeguard and secure the homeland.

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