Blog

February 11, 2019
10:47 am

An often invisible crime occurs closer than we think and to more people than we realize. Its victims number an estimated 20.9 million people globally. These victims commonly eschew help, fearing reprisals from not just the perpetrators but also law enforcement. Many victims and the societies they’re a part of misunderstand and fail to see the crime and, inevitably, the victims for what they truly are. What’s more, despite being largely inconspicuous, this crime generates billions of dollars in annual profits, only coming behind drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime.William N. Bryan; Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.

So what crime could be so pervasive and profitable yet remain in the shadows and, in some cases, be socially acceptable? January was National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and while the month has past, I want to take a moment to reaffirm our dedication to protecting victims of human trafficking and bringing their perpetrators to justice. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has had a long history of developing and bringing technology to the frontlines of this fight:

  • The Port of Entry Forensics and Investigations Program helps combat transnational crime and investigate child exploitation and human trafficking through open source data and forensic analysis of material collected from suspicious packages and cargo.
  • Igloo, a data analytics software program, allows law enforcement officers to scour multiple data sources and then track, triangulate, and swiftly translate the telltale signs of criminal activity into actionable intelligence.
  • Rapid DNA, technology that expedites the testing of DNA, can support efforts in immigration, human trafficking prevention, reunification of family members following mass casualties, and DHS law enforcement investigations.

Today, our commitment to helping the women and men at the forefront of combatting human trafficking remains steadfast. We continue to identify technology that can be quickly deployed and to develop technology that can disrupt human trafficking on a large-scale – ensuring we use modern means to remain ahead of an ever changing criminal landscape. We are also determining what resources are already available, understanding who the organizational players are, and accounting for both the domestic and international perspectives of this transnational crime. We are helping to set metrics and measures that can be used to enhance the coordination of resources, as well as engaging academic institutions through our Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis Center of Excellence to innovate our approach to challenges in this area.

Ultimately – in spite of all this work to enhance coordination, strategy, and technology – we must remember that putting an end to human trafficking starts with awareness and acknowledging its existence in our communities. Let’s ensure we remain alert for those around us who may need help but don’t ask for it or who may simply not know they are victims.

For updates on what we’re doing to combat human trafficking, keep up with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

January 29, 2019
12:02 pm

In recent years, prize challenges have become a great way for government agencies to find solutions to some of the toughest hurdles facing our nation. Crowdsourcing multiple perspectives and ideas means we’re more likely to get results that are both impactful and cost-effective, and participants can learn from each other and the official feedback they receive. It’s in this spirit of friendly innovative competition that I invite you to submit your ideas for a prize challenge from William N. Bryan; Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T): The Escape Respirator Challenge.

Like our previous competitions, this challenge addresses safety and operational problems affecting homeland security officials. The Escape Respirator Challenge aims to improve escape respirators or hoods, which are personal protective equipment used to help the wearer quickly and safely evacuate from areas affected by aerosolized chemical, biological and radiological hazards. Based on feedback from DHS officials in the field, S&T has determined  two main shortcomings with escape hoods currently on the market.

Lack of compact design, so the escape respirator is heavy and can’t be carried in small space, like a suit coat inner pocket.

Lack of oxygen delivery, which makes them less effective in oxygen-deficient environments.

Currently available escape hoods address one of these issues, but users need both features, a compact design and oxygen delivery system, to be better protected from threats.

I know what many of you are wondering – how much can I win? S&T will award a total cash prize pool of $250,000 for the Escape Respirator Challenge, which will be distributed over two phases. In Phase I, each of the three finalists will receive $50,000. At the end of Phase II, one winner will be awarded $100,000.

If you’re interested in participating, you’ll need to register for the challenge by Thursday, April 11, 2019 at 5 PM EST. Once you’re registered, applications are due by Thursday, May 30, 2019 at 5:00pm EST. For full details about this competition and to complete your registration, visit the Escape Respirator website.

This is a great opportunity to see if your escape hood prototype is up to the test, and I encourage you to join the competition if you think your product can address the current design shortcomings. We’ll share updates about the finalists and winner in the months following the May deadline, so be sure to follow S&T on our social media channels: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.

I also encourage you to check the S&T website for information on new prize challenges as they’re announced. We keep a list of Current Competitions in one place to make it easy for you to find the challenge that’s right for you. Best of luck to all the participants!

December 20, 2018
7:10 am

This time of year brings out the best in people as we find meaningful ways to support loved ones and serve our communities. It’s this commitment to service and helping others that makes the holiday season so special, and it reminds me of how the men and women at the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) approach their work throughout the year.

William N. Bryan, Senior Officil Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.Everything we do at S&T supports the people who serve on the front lines of the nation’s homeland security. Our staff apply their impressive talents to ensure DHS components and the nation’s first responders have the right technologies to perform their jobs safely and effectively. Our partners in government, private sector and academia develop innovative solutions that help our stakeholders stay ahead of new challenges.

In 2018, these efforts resulted in some truly impressive technical advances, which I encourage you to read about in our Newsroom. Each story represents a victory for someone working in the field, and it was made possible by the combined technical expertise and commitment of S&T staff and our partners.

At the end of the day, we know the work we do as a research and development organization will ultimately impact the people who often put themselves in harm’s way to protect others. It’s this mindset that inspired the S&T Impact series, which highlights how S&T makes a difference for those working in key DHS mission areas. If you have some downtime this season, take a look through the series to discover some of the ways we’re changing the game for nation’s the homeland security.

Happy Holidays! And Best Wishes for 2019.This is a great time of year to remember how important service to others is, and to commit ourselves to finding new ways we can give back to our communities. As we end one year and prepare to start a new one, I find my resolve to continue to support our nation and the Homeland Security Enterprise is also renewed.

Thank you to everyone who has worked with us this year, and I know I speak for everyone at S&T when I express my sincere gratitude for those who’ve given their time, energy and lives in service to the nation’s security.

I wish you all a very happy holiday season and a joyous new year!

December 3, 2018
9:36 am

Everyday across the nation, our first responders answer calls for help. We’ve all witnessed the heroic, coordinated efforts to respond to the California wildfires, the heartbreak of all-too-frequent active shooter incidents, and the daily dedication of law enforcement, fire fighters, and emergency medical services (EMS) to keep our communities safe and secure.

William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and TechnologyThrough it all, most of us rarely consider the technology first responders use to fulfill their mission and how that technology must work and integrate seamlessly into their operations to help them face increasingly dangerous threats.

DHS S&T’s Next Generation First Responder Apex Program (NGFR) works with public safety agencies to ensure the technology we research and develop for responders is not only innovative but has the capability to integrate with agencies’ existing technology. Beyond simply aiding responders in their mission, this technology can ultimately keep our responders better protected, connected and fully aware.

Over the past year, DHS S&T has worked with local Houston, Texas, public safety agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard to assess some of their technical needs. We asked these responders what threats kept them up at night, what capabilities they wish they had, and how we could improve upon their existing technology. Working with the agencies that helped Houston survive Hurricane Harvey, their priorities were improving operational communication, operational coordination, responder safety and overall situational awareness. The NGFR program team partnered with industry and worked tirelessly to address these concerns.

This week, DHS S&T heads to Houston where we’re working with public safety and industry partners to demonstrate the operational value of cutting-edge first responder technologies during the NGFR – Harris County Operational Experimentation (OpEx). Using open standards and guidance from the NGFR Integration Handbook, the OpEx will evaluate how DHS-developed, commercial, and existing first responder technologies will integrate during a multi-jurisdictional coordinated response to a HAZMAT scenario at the Port of Houston.

The goal of this OpEx is to advance first responder innovation by showcasing the promise and potential of the next generation first responder. To do this, DHS S&T and partners will assess the integration of Internet of Things sensors into advanced situational awareness platforms, investigate the technical requirements of a coordinated response during a disaster, and demonstrate how integrated solutions deliver greater operational impact for public safety agencies across the nation.

This is a great endeavor and could not have been accomplished without the time and dedication from our Houston-area and Harris County public safety agency and industry partners for their time, dedication, and determination for a successful exercise. Homeland security begins with hometown security. It is partnerships like these that help us show the world the future of first responder technology.

November 19, 2018
8:52 am

From power grids to communications systems, critical infrastructure is the backbone of American society, economy, security, and health. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) enables effective, efficient, and secure operations across all homeland security missions by applying scientific, engineering, analytic, and innovative approaches to deliver timely solutions and support departmental acquisitions. Yet implementing William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.even the best technologies can be a challenge, especially in remote locations or when aging legacy systems are in place.

So how do we ensure new critical infrastructure technologies are deployment-ready and effective? The key to this challenge is in testing.

Testing new critical infrastructure solutions is different than testing other technologies. Critical infrastructure failures can be devastating. Water quality, power grids, and transportation all rely on the efficacy and safety of technologies that support and make up those critical infrastructure sectors. This is why new solutions must work in conjunction with existing security redundancies. There cannot be weak links in the protection of our nation’s infrastructure.

To rise to this challenge, S&T has taken steps to diversify its testing methodology, which has resulted in an increase in testing in operational settings.

Testing in an operational setting means new technologies are tested in the operational environment in which it will be deployed. Using synthetic data, we test a technology’s functionality with environmental factors—such as terrain, power resources and legacy technology—effecting performance, enabling a more accurate evaluation of a technology’s viability for deployment. When technologies don’t perform as planned, developers are able to tweak and then re-test their work to create a better product.

S&T’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) embraces this practice, making testing in an operational setting a critical component of the development process. SVIP works with startups and small businesses to bring cutting-edge technologies into the Homeland Security Enterprise (HSE).

Startups and small businesses are often unfamiliar with DHS operations and how their technology can enhance our work. Through testing in an operational setting with SVIP, these companies gain a better insight into the needs of end-users.

Testing new technologies in a rigorous, realistic environment not only provides insight into effectively addressing HSE needs, it also facilitates collaboration between the companies developing solutions and potential end-users.

Collaboration while testing critical infrastructure products in an operational setting is key. Doing so gives end-users, such as DHS Components, the opportunity to provide feedback on a solution, which enables our portfolio companies to better customize their products to real-life needs and create effective solutions.

Critical Infrastructure and Resilience Month, observed throughout November, builds awareness and appreciation of the importance of critical infrastructure and reaffirms the nationwide commitment to keep our critical infrastructure and our communities safe and secure.  I look forward to S&T’s continued innovation in testing methods so we can better provide new technologies to the HSE and keep this nation—and its critical infrastructure—safe.

November 13, 2018
8:41 am

This November, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) recognizes the importance of increasing the resilience of our most core societal functions in an ever-changing technological landscape.October was Cybersecurity Awareness month, and it leads us into this month’s critical infrastructure focus with good reason: cyber innovation is forever transforming how the 16 essential sectors of critical infrastructure are managed.

William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.Commercial facilities, transportation, healthcare, financial services, nuclear reactors and government facilities, to mention a few, are all things the average citizen relies on to function each day. They are all susceptible to cyber attacks, and they still need the resilience to withstand other natural and manmade catastrophes.

Here are a few noteworthy S&T efforts that have directly impacted our nation’s critical infrastructure this year.

SAFETY Act – The S&T Office of SAFETY Act Implementation, responsible for approving anti-terrorism technologies for insurance coverage under the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act, approved its 1000th technology this year. Thanks to the SAFETY Act, various sports facilities, malls and other commercial buildings can maintain state-of-the-art security systems, and citizens can enjoy walking about those facilities feeling protected.

Flood Sensors Our Flood Apex program has continued to collaborate with communities around the country to ensure they can be prepared in the event of a storm surge. We have partnered with industry and local emergency managers to install flood sensors that alert first responder agencies of rising water levels and collect data, powering efforts to reduce future flood damage. Data from our sensors in Mecklenberg County, North Carolina, has served as the backbone for the Flood Information and Notification System, and this effort continues to expand to other regions. With such devastating hurricanes making their mark between 2017 and 2018, many communities will rely on better data to get them through these seasons.

Decision Support System for Water Infrastructure Security (DSS-WISE) Also in the realm of flood-proofing, S&T has created a modeling and simulation tool for dam failure situations. DSS-WISE provides communities with a course of action in these events, simulating potential inundation zones, informing evacuation processes and repair strategies. This added preparation saves communities thousands of dollars in dam safety studies, and millions in damages. It also saves lives. Efforts to improve DSS-WISE have been underway through S&T’s partnership with the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering (NCCHE).

Cyber Risk Economics (CYRIE) – Through the CYRIE project, S&T coordinates high-level research and development efforts in cybersecurity. These involve modeling and evaluating different economic aspects of cyber threats to improve the cybersecurity posture of Homeland Security Enterprise partners. This year, S&T invested in a forecasting platform to update critical infrastructure owners on the latest cybersecurity tools available to them. CYRIE continues to help S&T and our collaborators deliver optimal cyber risk management incentives for public and private sector organizations. Recently, we released our Cyber Risk Economics Capability Gaps Research Strategy, which we hope will help close the gap between research and practice by apprising the research community of real-world cyber risk economics challenges, and, ultimately, inform evidence-based policy and actions by industry and government.

What we all need

Whether you live in the city or the country, near the beach or at the foot of a mountain, the nation’s critical infrastructure is the backbone of your community. A weakness in one sector could easily be a weakness in another. As cyber innovation continues to bridge these different sectors together into a holistic network, homeland security depends, more than ever, on our shared consideration of each one and how it factors into the big picture.

November 5, 2018
8:34 am

When you think of our nation’s critical infrastructure, what comes to mind? Is it the structures that protect our physical borders? The wheels of industry that keep our economy in motion? The networks that keep our lines of communication open and energy flowing? Or maybe the roads and highways that take us to and from our jobs, our homes and other daily destinations?

Willia N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and TechnologyThe answer, of course, is all of the above—and then some. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has identified 16 critical infrastructure sectors that are vital to our nation’s well-being. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) takes securing our nation’s critical infrastructure quite seriously, working across these sectors to arm those who protect and serve with tools and research to keep our structures, systems and citizens safe.

As Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month kicks off, I want to talk about one component of infrastructure in particular—our schools—and a new technology S&T just released that will help protect not only the physical buildings, but also the individuals within them. The Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment, or EDGE, is a virtual training platform that allows educators and first responders to collaboratively plan responses for a number of threat scenarios, anything from classroom disturbances to bomb threats or an active shooter on campus.

S&T worked with the U.S. Army Simulation and Training Technology Center and Cole Engineering Services, Inc. to create an environment where users can improve and reinforce coordination, communication and critical decision-making skills in a safe space, so if the unthinkable does happen, everyone will know where to go and what to do.

To accomplish this, EDGE leverages the latest video gaming technology (think: Fortnite) with avatars representing, and controlled by, a number of real-life players: teachers, administrators, school resource officers, local law enforcement and more. But EDGE isn’t a game. There are no winners, losers or high scores, and there is no competition, just learning. EDGE is only available to verified education and first response agencies as part of a comprehensive training curriculum—the better prepared they are, the safer our schools will be.

Education institutions are vital to our nation’s critical infrastructure. They are where we feed the minds of the future leaders of industry, medicine, sports, science, education, homeland security and much, much more. As I mentioned in our recent announcement about EDGE’s availability , S&T does not pull any punches when it comes to the security of our students. Anytime we can make a tool available that can help to keep them safe—and offer it for free—well, that is winning.

For more information about EDGE and how to obtain access, visit https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/EDGE or contact first.responder@hq.dhs.gov.

October 1, 2018
2:28 pm

Today marks the start of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, also known as NCSAM. Since 2004, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recognized October as NCSAM to promote cybersecurity awareness and safety tips, ultimately changing behaviors to protect people against cyber threats.  

William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.Our off- and online lives are increasingly blurred. There is no escaping the reality that our homes, economic prosperity and national security are impacted by the internet. Starting today, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) will explore weekly themes to help you become #CyberAware.

Week 1 (October 1–5) Make Your Home a Haven for Online Safety

Every day, parents and caregivers teach kids basic safety practices. Easy-to-learn life lessons for online safety and privacy begin with parents leading the way. S&T will provide basic cybersecurity tips to protect your home against potential cybersecurity threats stemming from online shopping and sharing too much personal information on social media. 

Week 2 (October 8–12) Millions of Rewarding Jobs: Educating for a Career in Cybersecurity

A key risk to our economy and security continues to be the shortage of cybersecurity professionals to safeguard our ever-expanding cyber ecosystem. S&T’s Cybersecurity Competitions program funds efforts that engage high school and college students in cybersecurity competition challenges. One of our successfully transitioned efforts, the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC), challenges teams of college students to operate and manage a corporate network infrastructure. This effort’s objective is to educate and inspire the next generation of cybersecurity defenders.

Week 3 (October 15–19) It’s Everyone’s Job to Ensure Online Safety at Work

An organization’s online safety and security is a shared responsibility across the workforce. This week S&T will explore cybersecurity best practices for the workplace like recognizing phishing attempts, securing Internet of Things devices and identifying software vulnerabilities.

Week 4 (October 22–26) Safeguarding the Nation’s Critical Infrastructure

Our daily lives depend on the country’s 16 sectors of critical infrastructure, which supply food, water, financial services, public health, communications and power along with other networks and systems. Several of S&T’s cybersecurity research and development (R&D) programs focus on securing our critical infrastructure:

Throughout NCSAM, I encourage you to follow our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to help keep you cyber savvy! During the month, we will share tips and program highlights using #CyberAware and #NCSAM. For more information about NCSAM events, visit our page

September 27, 2018
12:22 pm

This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) co-hosted an outreach event with the Congressional Smart Cities Caucus to highlight how new technology can support hurricane resilience and save lives. The event was particularly poignant given the ongoing response and recovery efforts in the Carolinas following Hurricane Florence. My heart goes out to those whose lives have been turned upside down by the storm and subsequent flooding.William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.

 It is a sobering reminder of the ongoing threat hurricanes pose to the U.S., and how important it is to ensure communities have the tools they need to respond and recover to these disasters.

Given the size and scope of this challenge, S&T partners with innovators across government, industry and academia to develop new technologies and knowledge solutions that can improve the nation’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from hurricanes. This week’s event brought together members of Congress, DHS components, public safety stakeholders and S&T experts to showcase solutions already having an impact, as well as ongoing efforts that will build on this success.

Before a hurricane makes landfall, officials can use Hurricane Evacuation (HURREVAC) eXtended (HV-X), Advanced CIRCulation (ADCRIC), and Simulation-Based Decision Support System for Water Infrastructure Safety (DSS-WISE) Lite™ tools to simulate and visualize the potential impacts of storm surge and flooding on local communities. This insight can inform evacuation and resource-staging decisions, which save lives. S&T is also developing a specific Port Disruption Assessment Tool to help decision maker minimize the economic impacts of hurricanes, as well as an Internet Outage Detection resource that visualizes internet outages to guide response efforts.

To make communication easier and more effective during response, public safety can use the Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK), datacasting technology, ResponderCQ, and Incident Management Preparedness and Coordination Toolkit (IMPACT). These resources allow teams to share real-time location information, track assets and securely send large data packages when cellular networks are overwhelmed or knocked out due to the storm. We’ve also developed a Digital Volunteer Guide and the ability to analyze open source and social media data streams to provide surge support when response agencies resources are stretched thin, which helps turn vast amounts of social media posts into actionable insight.

Finally, S&T is developing new ways to equip communities with resources and knowledge to improve flood protection. The Port and Waterway Resiliency, Historical Flood Extents, Internet of Things Low-Cost Flood Inundation Sensors, and National Resilience Standards for Flood Proofing Products efforts will provide analytical tools and evaluation methods that officials can use to better mitigate hurricane damage to important waterways and critical infrastructure systems. These resources will also provide more accurate information about floods to inform alerts and warnings.

I encourage you to learn more about how these technologies are making an impact by exploring the latest installment of the S&T Impact series on Disaster Resilience. Also, remember to follow S&T on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for the latest updates on resilience technology and opportunities to partner with us.

September 4, 2018
9:50 am

Today, critical services like energy and water systems, mobile banking and transportation systems are dependent on reliable connectivity and secure operation of the internet. Our increased internet dependence has presented a new wave of challenges for network providers and defenders. Disrupted internet connectivity has severe implications for essential aspects of our daily lives, however, we know very little about their causes, mitigation and prevention.

William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology.Network/internet-scale disruptive events (NIDEs) may cause a loss or degradation of network (not necessarily internet) service and often follow natural disasters, geo-political events or the mass scale re-routing of internet traffic. The internet’s enormity makes defining, reporting and attributing NIDEs very difficult for network defenders.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) recently initiated the Predict, Assess Risk, Identify (and Mitigate) Disruptive Internet-scale Network Events (PARIDINE) program. We are funding five organizations to develop innovative technologies that will reveal more about NIDEs.

*  Define NIDEs by quantifiable metrics and classifications
*  Develop analysis methodologies and techniques to sense and identify NIDEs
*  Create NIDE-related documentation for external tools and analysis
*  Determine what caused the NIDE, with a measure of how good the attribution is

One example of a NIDE we are studying is Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) hijacking. BGP routes traffic across the internet, and all networks connected to the internet rely on BGP to reach other networks. Researchers will measure BGP and examine connectivity issues caused by BGP hijacking. BGP hijacking occurs when a malicious attacker uses false network routing information to distort the internet’s common routing system. Incidents of these hijackings have blocked or derailed internet access for millions of people at a time.

PARIDINE will generate useful and actionable NIDE information for network operators, emergency management personnel and continuity-of-operations planners using these novel innovative solutions:

          *  Developing a framework that will perform near real-time NIDEs monitoring
          *  Identifying NIDES in  9-1-1 and other public safety and emergency communications systems
          *  Detecting NIDEs within a network or system
          *  Developing root-cause attribution of NIDEs
          *  Developing a system for internet-scale monitoring of router-reboots and their impact on BGP routing and reachability

These solutions will enhance the ability to identify and report disruptive events that could potentially harm our nation’s networks and critical systems. Through PARIDINE, we look forward to identifying internet outages faster and determining how they occur. We already has several potential customers including the Federal Communications Commission and the National Protection and Programs Directorate’s Office of Emergency Communications. For more information, please visit PARIDINE’s webpage.

Pages

Back to Top