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  1. Science and Technology Directorate
  2. News Room
  3. The Role of Science and Technology in Preparing for Future Change

The Role of Science and Technology in Preparing for Future Change

Release Date: December 21, 2023

Newly published papers offer a visionary look at the emerging threat landscape and opportunities on the horizon to tackle these threats head on. 

The last few years seem to have brought with them an unusual degree of change. Extreme weather events, a pandemic, supply chain disruptions, global conflicts have tested our resolve and continue to place pressure on the systems and operations that keep our country protected and moving forward. It’s natural, especially at this time of year, to look back on all that has transpired and reflect on how our lives and livelihoods have changed. But as we do this, I would like to challenge us all to instead reflect on how we have evolved. Change can be scary, but change can also be good—if we are open to it and prepared for it.

At the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), our job is to push new thinking and ask what we could do that is more responsive to challenges the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will face in a changing world. Drawing science and technology into this conversation enables us to see impacts differently and better understand what tools and approaches can help relieve the burden on the workforce, who face expansive demands. 

Recognizing there are no single point solutions to safeguarding the nation, S&T is excited to release a new series of in-depth analysis on preparedness. This Preparedness Series is designed to raise awareness of our unpredictable future and open a new lane for understanding the role science and technology plays in creating new options for reducing operational risk, enhancing decision-making, and boosting mission effectiveness. 

Knowing DHS touches more people every day than any other government organization, our Preparedness Series offers a new suite of options that homeland security officials can turn to, one that is complimented by a preparedness posture that allows for less surprise and longer lead times to anticipate future change.

It’s more important than ever to recognize the world of tomorrow may be vastly different with future challenges and may not easily scale from where current planning is today.

Historic understanding of risk, based on probabilities, has changed. We don’t always know the probabilities today and we don’t always know the name of the emergent risk—this is different and requires more attention for understanding the implications to preparedness.

On one side, extreme weather events are foreshadowing over-the-horizon eventualities and implications to managing risks for lifeline functions such as public safety, transportation, energy, and healthcare. Impacts to the Arctic region and Alaska are being felt four times faster than other parts of the country, presenting new challenges for protecting borders and waterways, patrol and rescue operations, emergency communications, and the resilience of critical infrastructures. With the uptick of wildfires, flooding, droughts, and rainfalls, what were once considered rare weather events are now becoming commonplace across the country.

On the other side, the growing emerging technology space adds new complexities for protecting the homeland. As advances in artificial intelligence, quantum, additive manufacturing, and unmanned aerial systems come together and the barrier to access is lower, new applications are being developed in ways that impact our security posture, including money laundering, fentanyl distribution, and dis-information campaigns.

Sharpening our understanding of how people will exploit technologies will help us prioritize against potential unknowns, blind spots and myriad of threat possibilities and identify new pathways for enhancing preparedness and adaptability to changing threat environments. 

At the same time, there is a suite of scientific and technological advances that will help security operators manage and anticipate the impacts of future change, to allow us to find the signal in the noise faster—in the context of preparedness. It’s important for us to continue researching how to use data in enhancing decision-making. Discrete types of data and disparate levels of information, including patterns of life, result in actionable decisions and can help security operators measure what is actionable and what is not.

Whether it’s predicting and analyzing threats from online communications, protecting goods and services across supply chains, responding to frequent disasters, preventing systems and networks from being hacked, or leveraging pattern recognition to secure our ports of entry, today’s smart technology enables the Department to safeguard the homeland in ways we could not imagine just a few years ago.

As we look to harness these advances, we must keep in mind how they are intertwined with the way the world is changing and will continue to shape where it is going in surprising ways. By asking how we hedge against a future that no one can fully predict and how we can take the necessary risks, S&T’s Preparedness Series sets the strategic tone for future research, development and innovation investments to address over the horizon challenges and opportunities.

The series includes four research papers, which are all now available online at S&T’s AI web page:

This is a pivotal moment for the Department and S&T, with remarkable opportunities that extend to more parts of the country, more sectors of the economy, and all demographics.

I welcome your inputs and ideas as we bring more people into the conversation to provide the Department with greater awareness of future change and versatility to enhance preparedness and save lives. If you plan to attend the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, please visit us in S&T’s exhibit booth (#61700), in Eureka Park at the Venetian Expo. We would love to hear from you and discuss our research impacts and opportunities to collaborate.

To get connected and learn more about this in-depth analysis, contact stmedia@hq.dhs.gov.

Last Updated: 12/21/2023
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