Through these concerted efforts, the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) aims to leverage the collective power of diversity to enhance DHS’s capacity to tackle complex homeland challenges and ensure equity across all programs.
- S&T has positioned itself to engage a more diverse set of innovators and promote its research and development funding programs and contracting mechanisms as a pathway to economic opportunity. The Directorate continues to increase participation in outreach efforts across the country through events and programs to Minority Serving Institutions, associations, and organizations serving underrepresented groups.
- S&T actively seeks opportunities to engage underrepresented groups in science and engineering, as well as in business ownership. To date, S&T has awarded contracts to many women-owned small businesses and a percentage of all awards are designated for socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses.
- S&T created opportunities to engage startups and entrepreneurs in underrepresented communities for the recently released Silicon Valley Innovation Program “Privacy Preserving Digital Credential Wallets and Verifiers” Industry Day, awarding contracts to woman-owned startup founders and minority founders. A percentage of SVIP-funded start-ups are from underserved populations.
- S&T has made significant developments in the safe screening of passengers, without physical contact, including for individuals with disabilities who use assistive devices. S&T continues to improve limited mobility passenger convenience and throughput at the checkpoint, which allows people to maintain their dignity while enhancing security and threat detection.
- S&T has taken a leadership role in efforts to measure the accuracy and equitability of biometric systems, both in industry and academia. S&T’s Biometric and Identity Technology Center has conducted research, test, and evaluation of the performance of biometric systems with people belonging to different demographic groups in contexts relevant to DHS operations. For example, S&T sponsors the National Institute of Standards and Technology Face Recognition Vendor Test and performs scenario evaluations of integrated biometric systems. This research informs the development of DHS and interagency oversight and best practices and underpins the development of international standards. S&T has also published numerous peer-reviewed, scientific publications on the issue of demographic equitability in biometric performance, many of which have been cited in congressional testimony and in reporting by other U.S. government components and have helped focus academic and industry research on applied equitability topics.
- S&T’s Office of University Programs funds projects that include advancing equity with regard to resilience, emergency planning, and response and recovery. Some of these projects have examined how social vulnerability indicators are incorporated into emergency planning to promote social equity as a component of building national resilience against natural disasters.
- S&T’s Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) program provides opportunities that foster and cultivate a diverse university-based research capability and talented workforce and prepares motivated students to launch successful homeland security-related careers. The MSI program offerings are designed to advance the research capabilities of students and contribute to MSI capacity building, scientific leadership in areas of study critical to homeland security, recruit and diversify the next generation of the homeland security workforce, and provide opportunities for students to directly engage with professionals in their areas of interest.
- S&T has increased participation of innovators who identify as minority or BIPOC to participate in the Homeland Security Startup Studio initiative.
- S&T has expanded outreach to tribal and territorial communities to increase representation in the DHS S&T First Responder Resource Group—a multi-disciplined, multi-jurisdictional working group identifying capability needs for first responders.
- In collaboration with a multi-component working group, S&T assisted with developing a simplified web experience for noncitizens navigating the immigration system. The goal was to improve case management and compliance through extensive customer experience research to ensure usability and accessibility for noncitizens, as well as people with disabilities.