It is often said that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rose from the ashes of 9/11.
It is also quite evident that the new leadership of the fledgling DHS understood that to truly secure our nation, an interconnected hub for innovation in research and development must be established. This new entity would need to coordinate, fund, fuse, and spur origination and development throughout the newly conceptualized homeland security enterprise (HSE). To satisfy that need, as DHS rose, so did the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T).
That was 20 years ago…and we’re still rising.
Last week, I had the honor of joining my DHS colleagues at the Department’s own 20th Anniversary commemoration. It became very clear to me that, while I sometimes still feel a bit like the new guy, I am in the right place at the right time surrounded by the best people to get the job done. So, looking back on this significant anniversary, I’d like to take a moment to say thank you to the men and women who have dedicated themselves to our country through their service, especially here at S&T.
The achievements we have accomplished in these two decades are too vast to list here. They span aviation and border security, chemical and biological threat reduction, climate change impact, critical infrastructure resilience, cybersecurity, first responder support, human trafficking, explosives and opioids detection, public health security—and that only scratches the surface of what we do. But most importantly, from a 20,000-foot perspective, we have continued to successfully embody the never-ending mission. We have and continue to play our enduring role in preparing for and protecting our nation from manmade and natural disasters, and we do that through investments in science and technology. We do it through collaboration with our local, state, federal, tribal, and global partners. We do it with a workforce that is diverse, agile, forward-thinking, creative, and mission focused.
No other agency is as uniquely positioned as we are to positively impact the HSE in these areas.
A 20th anniversary is indeed a time to look back, see where we started, and acknowledge our successes. But more importantly, it is a time to assess what we have learned and apply it to the future.
That future is coming faster and faster, and it is less and less predictable. So, while we address the known issues of today, we also must prepare for the unknown future threats of tomorrow. We do this by focusing on stringent research, development, testing and evaluation, evidence-based scientific and technical findings, and of course, the scientific method. If this sounds like the basics of good science, you’re absolutely right. That’s what we do.
There has never been a more exhilarating time to be in science. The growing maturation of artificial intelligence, blockchain, and quantum computing could barely be imagined a generation ago, but they are here, and they are changing how we are able to prepare for and respond to an evolving threat landscape. Whether we are providing first responders with next-generation life-saving protective gear, designing and deploying sensors to arm agencies with critical real-time data, fortifying our infrastructure and building resilient communities, teaching school kids to save lives, or leveraging technology to capture human traffickers and eradicate child exploitation, this is an era of unparalleled opportunity for innovation.
We live in a golden age of science and technology, and S&T is at the cutting edge. I couldn’t be more excited about what’s on the horizon and how S&T will help shape the future.
As part of our 20th anniversary celebration, we recently spoke with every one of S&T’s previous Under Secretaries. In the months to come, we’ll share their perspectives on their tenures at S&T, and also their thoughts regarding the future. Additionally, you’ll hear much more from me about my vision for where we’ll go from here. I hope you find our insights thought-provoking and informative.
So, if science, technology, innovation, and protecting our country gets your blood pumping, you’re right where (and when) you’re supposed to be.
S&T will post 20th Anniversary milestones, videos, and success stories throughout the coming year. Follow along on social media at @DHSSciTech.