Guest post from Melanie Cummings, Director of the Science and Technology Directorate’s Technology Centers Division.
The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) works to prepare the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for, as our name implies, the future of science and technology. Doing this means that we remain aware (and ahead) of emerging science and technology threats along with harnessing the latest advancements in science and technology as cutting-edge solutions for homeland security operational challenges. That’s why I’m excited to announce today the release of S&T’s Technology Centers Research Agenda. The agenda establishes a multi-year strategic framework that aligns our research portfolio and communicates our investment priorities to our interagency, international, and academic partners, as well as the public.
The Technology Centers are home to some of the premier science and engineering authorities in the Department and the nation, and we tapped into their collective vision in drafting the report. Our subject matter experts looked across their professional networks, engaged partners, and applied their own understanding of the homeland security landscape to determine which emerging fields and trends S&T needs to monitor—and act on—over the next five years. Our goal: consider where advancements in science and technology can change the game for homeland security operations and map out where S&T can make the greatest impact on the Department’s priority missions.
What you will find in the Research Agenda are the following priority science and technology domains for S&T’s research, our focuses and investments in each area, and what we want to achieve:
- Advanced Sensing
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Autonomous Systems
- Communications & Cyber Resiliency
- Data, Modeling, and Simulation Sciences
- Digital Identity & Trust
- Earth Systems Sciences
- Emerging Computing Paradigms
- Novel Materials & Secure Manufacturing
- Social Sciences
You’ll learn that our Earth systems science research will continue to focus on preparing for, responding to, and mitigating the effects of extreme weather events like catastrophic flooding, wildfires, heavy rains, and record snowfall that are increasing in frequency. One step that the Department has already taken, at the encouragement and guidance of our Technology Centers, was to join the U.S. Global Change Research Program earlier this year. As a result, we now have a seat at the table to leverage scientific research to strengthen the nation’s preparedness for and resilience in the face of climate change-related disasters.
Advanced communication networks are a key element of tomorrow’s digital infrastructure and enable technologies such as AI, internet of things, and augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality. The promises of 5G/XG and the proliferation of low Earth orbit satellite constellations are anticipated to be revolutionary. 5G is expected to facilitate fundamentally new classes of applications, from real-time remote operations and enhanced situational awareness, to self-driving cars, smart buildings, AR, and more. With such promise comes incredible responsibility as well; our forward-looking research aims to protect and enhance the networks that transport the voice and data between devices, humans, and the interconnected software and hardware systems.
Our research will also inform the nation’s AI security insights. There’s plenty of buzz about AI tools that have a wide range of potential homeland security applications—for instance, their ability to quickly process vast amounts of data could speed up disaster response by providing emergency managers with improved situational awareness. At the same time, generative AI, in particular, raises concerns about security threats, perhaps being used to write malicious code or produce false, biased, or outdated information. Our Technology Centers’ research in this space will help S&T understand and mitigate the impacts of adversarial uses of AI and harness the beneficial applications for operational use in DHS missions.
Many other federal agencies are pursuing similar efforts in these mission spaces, and we are partnering where we can because it’s vitally important that we are all on the same page. For our part, we continue to study all aspects of how advances in science and technology can be used to secure the homeland more effectively, in addition to understanding the vulnerabilities and potential misuses. Knowledge is power, so they say; the Research Agenda will remain agile and will be updated incrementally as we learn and as we evolve to meet the Department’s priorities.
I hope you enjoy the read!