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Homeland Security

Science and Technology Special Programs Division


To provide Department of Homeland Security components, the Intelligence Community (IC) and other government agencies with programmatic and technical expertise in Emerging Threats, Risk Sciences, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR), and other areas applicable to homeland security that may be especially sensitive, classified, or deserving of extraordinary security protection.


The Special Programs Division (SPD) receives requirements through three different methods:

  1. SPD could receive requirements via Integrated Product Team (IPT) sessions (mostly done with the Risk Sciences and Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Branches).
  2. During the normal budget cycle, using current trends and previous assessments to plan for current and near-term fiscal projects (all branches).
  3. A customer with intelligence indicates that there is an emerging threat not planned for during the normal budgetary cycle (Emerging Threats) or through daily interactions within Department components.

Director, Special Programs Division

The Director reports directly to the Under Secretary for Science and Technology (S&T) and executes the functions listed below through four distinct branches (Emerging Threats, Risk Sciences, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Special Access Programs Control Office). Each branch is headed by an individual branch chief.

Functions included but not limited to:

  1. Providing programmatic leadership and direction for Department S&T research and development (R&D) programs that have been identified as being especially sensitive, classified, or deserving of extraordinary security protection.
  2. In accordance with the Homeland Security Act of 2002, ensuring especially sensitive technologies involving homeland defense are transferred to, or coordinated with, the Under Secretary for S&T.
  3. Using the intellectual capital and capabilities of the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories, the private sector and other federal agencies, especially the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, to identify, characterize and assess new and emerging threats; focusing on identifying threats whose potential future appearance is suggested by economic and technology trends; trends in observed terrorist behavior, intelligence and other disparate information; and expanding aviation data outputs that provide the basis for strategic and tactical intelligence cueing.
  4. Conducting high-risk, high-payoff basic technology research in areas relevant to emerging threats, risk sciences, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and special access program areas.
  5. Coordinating liaison programs between the Science and Technology Intelligence Community and the divisional directors within Department of Homeland Security S&T.

Emerging Threats Branch

The mission of the Emerging Threats Branch is to identify over-the-horizon technologies by ascertaining potential future threats.

The Emerging Threats Branch Chief reports directly to the Director of Special Programs and executes the following functions:

  1. Determining potential emerging threats through commissioned and interagency threat assessments, through the expertise brought by the customers through IPT process, and through an assessment of existing counter-measure availability and capabilities.
  2. Providing direct liaison between Department S&T, SPD and the Departmental and Interagency S&T intelligence community members ensuring advantageous collaboration, minimal redundant resourcing and efforts, and facilitates interagency information and technology sharing.
  3. Providing threat assessments to the Department components during the IPT process to ensure capability gaps and requirements are aligned with assessed threat domains.
  4. Providing a mechanism for Department components to address “surprise” technologies and/or threats that emerge without notice.

Risk Sciences Branch

The mission of the Risk Science Branch is to foster systematic, transparent, and goal-focused application of risk concepts and tools to provide better support to strategic, operational, and tactical decision-makers across the national homeland security enterprise. Informed decision-making across government, and particularly in the Department, demands systematic and appropriate consideration of risk.

Further, the need to consider risk arguably extends to every decision-maker and at every level from local/tactical up to national/strategic. Risks to be considered, and the manner in which they will be considered, will vary from issue to issue and according to the responsibilities of a given decision-maker. This is both necessary and appropriate, but could also potentially result in various analytic methodologies, databases, and decision-making processes. To counteract the potential for confusion and seeming disjointedness, there must be a unifying threat that binds risk considerations across the Department and the larger national homeland security enterprise. That threat includes policy and standard processes for assessing and communicating risk. Closely related to the issue of appropriate risk analysis methodologies is the need to have a sound understanding of the essential characteristics of the problem space being addressed through these risk analyses. This is a particular problem as many of the risks faced in homeland security differ in very significant ways from those risks for which the existing analytical and problem solving methods were developed. The Risk Program Area will help create a unifying departmental perspective on important concepts and the ways in which risk can be used to inform homeland security decision-making. Additionally, the Risk Sciences Program Area will help to identify essential decision-relevant characteristics of problems falling within homeland security.

The Risk Science Branch Chief reports directly to the Director of Special Programs and executes the following functions:

  1. Providing a unifying departmental perspective on the concept of  "Risk" and how "Risk" can be used to inform homeland security decision-making.
  2. Providing independent review and validation of risk assessment and other analytic processes developed elsewhere in the Department; providing support to risk assessors and analysts across the Department; and fostering the development of a Department community of interest, and ultimately a community of practice, for risk assessment and analysis.
  3. Coordinating "Risk" research carried out by S&T's University Programs Center of Excellence, by the Homeland Security Institute, and by various Department components/elements.
  4. Serving as the chair of a cross-department body of risk assessors and analysts that will function as an Integrated Product Team for risk assessment tools that will cut across program and agency lines within the Department (primarily to support decisions in S&T, Policy Directorate and Department Program Analysis and Evaluation (PA&E)).
  5. Establishing and overseeing a senior advisory board, or taking advantage of other existing bodies with expertise in risk in order to build credibility into the Department's risk assessment and risk management activities.
  6. Managing research and developmental efforts aimed at advancing the state of the art in the risk and decision-support sciences (risk analysis, risk communications, performance metrics, etc.).

Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Branch

The mission of the Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Branch is to support basic research activities to improve collection and dissemination of intelligence information through the use of satellites, radars, sensors, and unmanned platforms in support of Department components and other relevant federal and Department of Defense agencies.

The Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Branch Chief reports directly to the Director of Special Programs and executes the following functions:

  1. Establishing an open working relationship with the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, ISR Branch. This relationship will develop and recommend implementation of technology solutions toward an integrated Department ISR Enterprise.
  2. Assessing ISR integration efforts being discussed within other Department components.
  3. Leveraging S&T ISR projects from other intelligence agencies to fulfill the technological gaps identified within the OI&A ISR Branch.
  4. Providing S&T support in addressing identified technological capability gaps with respect to "disadvantaged" customers.

Special Access Program Branch

The Special Access Program Branch is matrixed from the Department Headquarters Office of Security (Department OS) to ensure appropriate execution of all security program requirements for S&T Special Access Program (SAP) initiatives. The mission of the Special Access Program Branch is to provide direction, management and security administration of the Special Access Program Control Office (SAPCO) for the S&T organization. The SAPCO, under Department OS authority, provides security policy, guidance, and oversight for those Special Access Programs under the auspices of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology. This office is the single point of contact for SAP requirements and the conduit for coordination between S&T and other Executive Branch Departments/Agencies requesting S&T support or participation in Special Access Programs.

Last Published Date: September 19, 2013
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