DHS sets its cyber R&D goals

Growing cybersecurity threats prompt DHS to seek quick turnaround on cyber research

Science & Technology Directorate’s broad agency announcement

Related Links

The federal government has sounded an alarm about increasing cybersecurity threats to the country’s critical infrastructure. But rather than wait for industry to develop the necessary security technology, Homeland Security Department officials say they plan to find, fund and push potentially ground-breaking software into the commercial market.

A broad agency announcement published by DHS’ Cyber Security Research and Development Center May 17 asks for industry proposals that, within three years, could produce commercial technologies to protect against computer security threats.

DHS published a list of research and development challenges that DHS’ internal and external customers believe are the right priorities for dealing with the near-term and longer-term threats they face, said Douglas Maughan, program manager for cybersecurity research at DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate.

“We strongly recommend that people making proposals come to the table with their own technology and transition partners already onboard,” Maughan said. Proposals will be evaluated on that basis, he said.

The announcement states that plans to transition the technologies to the open-source community are acceptable.

Based on past experience, Maughan said, probably about 20 percent of the research white papers that DHS receives in response to the announcement could lead to full R&D proposals for programs lasting three years.

How much funding DHS will have to support new cyber R&D is uncertain. Maughan said DHS has $4.5 million for funding programs in fiscal 2007. But subsequent appropriations will determine the amount in the future. The House Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee approved $777 million in fiscal 2008 funding for the Science and Technology Directorate, a $22 million decrease compared with the president’s request.

Purdue University professor Eugene Spafford, a computer security expert and member of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, said several areas on DHS’ research agenda are worthy. However, he said, the list of research priorities appears to address near-term problems instead of bigger challenges.

“This announcement is not trying to grow the enterprise by looking to what is coming next, at System X problems,” Spafford said. “It’s really looking more at fixing what problems exist now.”

None of the research areas listed in the announcement are blind alleys, and they are certainly areas of need, Spafford said.  He added that many other research challenges are of equal if not greater importance.

“DHS should be one of the agencies taking the lead in [cybersecurity] research,” Spafford said. “If you speak to the military, for example, they are relying on DHS to provide protection for the infrastructure they have to deal with to do their jobs, but they feel nothing is being done about it.”

Agencies such as the National Science Foundation support meaningful cybersecurity research, Spafford said. But, he added, those efforts are underfunded, which makes DHS’ programs all that more important.

Maughan said DHS’ research efforts are aimed at achieving nearly immediate returns. “That’s the DHS mission,” he said. “We aren’t the NSF.”

DHS has requested submissions of white papers by June 27. DHS will invite those who provide papers that meet its requirements to submit full proposals by Sept. 17.
DHS publishes its cyber research agendaThe Homeland Security Department issued a request for preliminary research and development proposals to address nine cybersecurity challenges, which it identified as:
  • Botnet and other malware detection and mitigation.
  • Scalable secure systems.
  • Cybersecurity metrics.
  • Network data visualization for information assurance.
  • Internet tomography and topography.
  • Routing security management.
  • Process control systems security.
  • Data anonymization tools and techniques.
  • Insider threat detection and mitigation.

— Brian Robinson

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group