HSARPA seeks the best of the new

Related Links

Real genius

When officials at the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency invited the private sector to present the latest and greatest technology to combat terrorism, they were inundated with more than 500 white papers.

Now, the agency, launched under the Homeland Security Department last year, must find the best of the best. Director David Bolka spoke about the agency's role and challenges.

Q: Were you surprised by the response from the private sector?

A: We've been encouraging those kinds of responses. We held industry days where we had 200 attendees from 170 companies where we asked small businesses how [we] could work with them. The response was to more effectively plumb the technology in the private sector and, second, to more effectively contract with them.

Q: Has any of the technology you've seen thus far been surprising?

A: I'm not so much surprised by the technology as the opportunity to apply it in ways that are different from what the inventors initially thought. A lot of the technology we're looking at, particularly in the chemical/biological and radiation/nuclear area, has been under development for a while or it has been available in academic laboratories and private-sector applications. It has not been applied in the anti-terrorism detection area.

Q: How do you deal with the challenge of running a new agency?

A: I've had about 15 years of [research and development experience] in government and 13 years of R&D in industry. There is a happy medium between the two. The industry outlook on getting things done quickly, looking for return on investment and cutting through a lot of the red tape in order to make that happen is a set of principles we can apply in this organization and in this start-up. Congress [had the foresight] in the legislation that established us in giving us the personnel authority to hire appropriate people and the contracting authority to deal with small companies, particularly companies [that] don't want to engage in Federal Acquisition Regulation-compliant contracts. There is a happy medium between an innovative government agency and the best of the commercial research organizations like [Lucent Technologies] Bell Labs and IBM [Corp.] labs that we can bring to bear here.

Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.