DHS preps R & D fast track

The Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) soon will release broad agency announcements aimed at putting promising research and development projects on the fast track.

The release of the BAAs will mark the first availability of fiscal 2003 funds for the selected information technology projects, said retired Army Lt. Gen. Peter Kind, former special assistant to the homeland security adviser.

HSARPA, part of the Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate, is not fully operational. But the funds were earmarked before the department was formally established — when the transition team began working and ideas started coming in, Kind told FCW following a May 8 panel discussion at an AFCEA International conference in Washington, D.C.

"There is no exact time for [HSARPA] to be up and running, but it will be as quickly as possible and hopefully within this fiscal year, but that remains to be seen," said Kind, who is currently a research staff member at the Institute for Defense Analysis. "The BAAs will be released within a matter of weeks."

The challenge then will be for government experts to sort through proposals and award contracts to the providers offering the best solutions that can be tested and fielded quickly, he said.

HSARPA is being modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Defense's main research and development arm. The main difference will be HSARPA's homeland security emphasis on near-term efforts, said Jim Flyzik, a partner in the IT consulting firm Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik & Associates.

HSARPA projects mostly will be ready for fielding "within six months to one year," as opposed to many DARPA projects that go on for multiple years, said Flyzik, the former IT adviser at the old Office of Homeland Security.

"I believe the focus will be on projects that can be done within a year," he said. "They need to pilot in the lab, and then deploy quickly in the field following a proof of concept."

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