Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and togetherness…and pie; but I’d like to focus on the first two.
I am incredibly appreciative and proud of the dedication I’ve seen this past year from my colleagues within the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), throughout the Department of Homeland Security, and across federal, state, and local public safety sectors.
We have been mostly separated for nearly two years, operating in a remote world, but have remained as united as ever in our mission to protect people. Just last week, I had the pleasure of attending our annual bilateral meeting with the United Kingdom (UK) and was able to ‘meet’ virtually with my counterpart, Chief Scientific Advisor Jennifer Rubin, along with teams from the UK Home Office and S&T. We discussed the many areas where we currently collaborate and ways we can grow and mature together as an extension of each other. The pandemic, climate change, cyberattacks, and violent extremism have shown that today’s threats are global; they cross-cut national boundaries, international timelines, and touch all of us. As global threats evolve, so too does the need for us to work collaboratively in encouraging research and development across domains. And while our similar challenges bring us together, so too do our different strengths.
S&T has a long history of partnering with allies to develop innovative ideas, share diverse insights, and deploy new capabilities. S&T has a long history of building international partnerships. We share values, common objectives, and priorities – allowing us to leverage each other’s resources to reduce risks, save lives, protect our economies, and build resilience and security against future threats. This type of teamwork is essential to our progress as a nation.
As Eric Lander, Science Advisor to the President and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy eloquently put it, “curiosity, openness, humility, diversity, and dissent are what make science, at its best, such an effective force for progress and one of the world’s most democratic practices.”
This is a pivotal time – one where the pace of change, driven by complex threats and new technologies, is impacting our way of life on a scale unseen in our lifetimes. However, I can confidently say that we are rising to the occasion. Internationally, we have collaborated with our Five Research and Development (5RD) counterparts in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand throughout the pandemic – identifying complementary research efforts to pursue, validating protocols, and sharing emerging test results. We have teamed up with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Transportation Security Administration, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of the Republic of Korea to enable pre-screening of airline baggage. Domestically, there are always numerous projects underway that call upon colleagues across the country to achieve mission success. Our wildland fire sensor work in California is a great example. And we are currently partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to hold the “Cooling Solutions Challenge,” the first in a series of prize competitions focused on strengthening the nation’s resilience to climate change.
Without question, difficult challenges remain and that’s where continued cooperation with our allies is important. With our trusted partnerships and extensive knowledge, I am confident that we will continue to make progress and achieve our shared goals. We are all in this together. With that in mind, there is much to be grateful for this holiday season.
Turkey day is often thought of as a quintessentially American celebration, but many other countries have similar harvest festivals in the fall. Countless families of all kinds will be coming together – in person and through screens – to share a meal in the coming days. Wherever you are in the world, I wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving!