Today, I had the honor of kicking off the fourth annual Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) Sponsor Summit. The event, held virtually again this year, explored how critical partnerships drive homeland security mission excellence. I was able to speak to senior leaders from across the department about how S&T engages with public and private sector stakeholders to do just that, and I’d like to share some of my thoughts here with you as well.
The truth is that the last 20 months have been demanding and disruptive. Our ability to continue to innovate requires not only tremendous scientific and technical expertise but also partnerships—and the relationship between S&T and the FFRDCs truly is a critical partnership. The Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute (HSSEDI) and the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC) are incredibly valuable resources upon which S&T regularly depends. They provide high-quality research and objective advice on myriad issues integral to our missions.
The summit featured an incredible roster—I was joined by FFRDC leadership, as well as U.S. Representatives August Pfluger (TX-11) and Elissa Slotkin (MI-8); experts from the Transportation Security Administration, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Secret Service, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement; as well as stakeholders and collaborators from beyond the DHS family. We worked to gather priorities and insights to better align resources and efforts to DHS’s top challenges.
Key topics on the table included the climate crisis, cyber threats, and critical infrastructure and law enforcement, which are, of course, important issues for all Americans. They are also areas that present not only challenges, but also great opportunities for innovation. Securing the vital services that make modern-day life possible and supporting and enhancing the effectiveness of first responders are what S&T is all about. It also just so happens that November is Infrastructure Security Month.
Together we delved into these emerging threats and how our homeland security mission must evolve to meet those threats. I challenged my colleagues to share their experiences and listen intently to each other so we may better understand the work that needs to be done. Forums like the summit are about clarifying and defining not just what’s next but what we can achieve on our collective journey to save lives and help the country ‘Build Back Better.’
The evolution of DHS mission priorities is inevitable, but so is the determined response of S&T and its allies when called upon. It is my hope that a year from now we’ll be able to look back and say that we knew how to ask the right questions, remove barriers, push the envelope when it mattered, and think critically about updating scientific findings and methodologies when it counted. For S&T, this is the time to seize the moment … and we can’t wait to roll up our sleeves with some pretty spectacular partners and get to work. We all have a collective stake in securing our future. I hope you will also seize an opportunity to get an inside look at our FFRDCs and ways to partner with S&T.