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 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.