Acquisition

DHS to embed researchers 'on the ground'

Dr. Reginald Brothers

Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary for Science and Technology Reginald Brothers

Technology development personnel from the Department of Homeland Security's research directorate will be embedded in DHS agencies as part of a program to better understand the components' technical needs and to hone requirements for the equipment it buys.

The plan is still in the conceptual stages and specific details have not yet been finalized. But Reginald Brothers, undersecretary for Science and Technology at DHS, said in a brief interview after a presentation at a National Defense Industrial Association breakfast that the first embedded personnel could be inserted into agencies such as Customs and Border Protection or the Secret Service "in the next few weeks."

"Gaining insight into [operational] component needs and requirements is critical to our success, and there is no better way to gain this insight than to be on the ground seeing, experiencing, and learning first hand," Brothers said in an internal email to S&T staff about the plan. "I envision several models where S&T staff could be embedded for different lengths of time with differing objectives. We are working to flesh out the details."

Additionally, according to an Oct. 29 DHS S&T statement to FCW, there may also be opportunities to embed personnel from DHS components agencies within S&T for short periods so those program-focused employees can get a better understanding of how S&T conducts research, development, testing and evaluation. The experience, DHS officials hope, would show what it takes to bring a potential technology from idea to operational product, as well as the importance of having a clear notion of operational requirements before S&T starts developing a technology.

In his remarks at the NDIA presentation, Brothers said he has also proposed sending component agency program managers and division leaders to commercial technology companies to observe their development processes.

Brothers, confirmed as S&T undersecretary in April, has instituted a broad program to reach out to industry and academia to expand the department's technical reach.

DHS's need for cutting -edge technologies, including increasingly agile IT and data mining capabilities, has never been greater, he said, but budgets are not growing. "We need new ways to close the gap," he said.

Earlier this month, Brothers posted an ambitious, though general, long-term agenda for DHS's tech-development arm that concentrates on developing a seamless cybersecurity infrastructure, networked threat detection technology, and speedier traveler and cargo security detection capabilities. The success of those "apex" goals, he said, lies with the ability to adapt and field advancing technologies.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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