Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC) hosted DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and other current and former DHS leaders (myself included) at a virtual summit: the Third Annual FFRDC Sponsor Summit. With all that is going on in the country right now, this year’s meeting provided an excellent opportunity for us to discuss and prioritize critical emerging and ongoing threats in the homeland security space that have been identified over the past year—including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, domestic and international criminal/terrorist activity, cybersecurity breaches, election security, and other threats highlighted in the recently-published 2020 Homeland Threat Assessment (HTA).
I was honored to kick off the agenda, touching on S&T’s work to address and mitigate these threats, and provide insight into our FFRDCs’ expertise to help to steer the department toward solutions to these critical mission challenges. The FFRDCs—the Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute and the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center—are uniquely positioned to quickly and objectively tackle the research and development needed to support the nation’s response efforts.
Joining me and FFRDC leadership at the summit were experts from the Transportation Security Administration, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They offered their perspectives on the challenges associated with preventing and mitigating these emerging and ongoing threats, highlighted examples of FFRDC partnerships already underway to address them, and provided a forum for the DHS community to share their experiences from the past year and gain a better understanding of the work that needs to be done in order to continue ensuring the security and safety of our country.
And there is some serious work to be done. There are roadblocks in place that are hampering mitigation efforts. And we’re feeling our way through challenges like the global pandemic, a threat we’ve never before seen in our lifetimes. But, one thing this event demonstrated is that we are all in this together. It allowed us to articulate the struggles in our own organizations and develop a common path forward for the near- and long-term.
I look forward to continued partnerships and additional dialogues like this so we can begin to help DHS move the needle on all of these issues by elevating the conversation and offering a platform for solutions.