The House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies & the Subcommittee on Research and Technology recently held a joint hearing on the potential re-authorization of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) directorate. S&T’s objective is to develop new technologies for agencies under DHS such as the Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, etc. to better protect the homeland from a wide variety of threats. Representatives from both committees were concerned on the level of redundant research programs within S&T’s $1.2 billion budget across DHS; Chairman Lamar Smith highlighted a government accountability office report which described S&T’s R&D management approach as “fragmented and overlapping.”
Undersecretary Brothers responded by providing an overview of S&T’s current R&D priorities, which are guided by the quadrennial homeland security review and the direction of DHS Secretary Johnson:
noninvasive screening, augmenting the resilience of the nation’s cyber infrastructure, empowering decision makers with actionable information, and improving the effectiveness of threat responders. Brothers emphasized the need to balance short term applied research with riskier, but potentially higher reward, long term basic research projects. In recent years, S&T has reduced basic research spending to increase its short term deliverables to end users via applied research projects. In terms of future projects, Undersecretary Brothers indicated he plans to expand S&T’s R&D portfolio to include more commercial off-the-shelf projects to better counter emerging disruptive technologies.
Undersecretary Brothers was confident in the existing channels, such as the Developmental Working Group and the Mission Executive Council, that enable S&T to leverage existing technologies utilized by other government agencies. For example, the developmental working group assists S&T in assimilating relevant Department of Defense (DoD) technology and the mission executive council helps coordinate technical capabilities between the Department of Energy, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the DoD.
Representative Thompson was concerned with S&T’s small business record, and stressed the need for S&T to expand its outreach toward small and/or minority owned businesses going forward. Undersecretary Brothers agreed small businesses were an important potential source of S&T innovation, but expressed concern that many small businesses lack experience working with the federal government. In response to Representative Thompson’s concerns, Undersecretary Brothers indicated he is actively reviewing how S&T interacts with small businesses through standard industry days, and plans to expand S&T’s social media outreach toward small businesses in the future.
For a list of upcoming S&T Events, see the DHS website: http://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/st-events
For more information about the S&T Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), please visit the website: http://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/sbir