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Over the past several months, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has led the National Conversation on Homeland Security Technology, a series of online and in-person discussions among responders, operational users, and innovators to generate sustainable homeland security solutions to help keep our communities and those who protect them safe and resilient.
These discussions (both online and in-person) focused on the Responder of the Future – one of S&T’s visionary goals that aims to help ensure that America’s first responders are protected, connected, and fully aware. As Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dr. Reggie Brothers put it, “We wanted to harness diverse viewpoints to engage with a wider range of the homeland security community. By crowd-sourcing the Responder of the Future dialogue, we connected with a more varied audience – and they connected with each other. That’s really where the true value of the National Conversation lies.”
Ideas and innovative solutions discussed in the Responder of the Future Dialogue will help shape future S&T activities, including the Next Generation First Responder Apex program (NGFR) and other related projects, pilots, and activities. The National Conversation underscored the benefits and importance of bringing together industry and responders when developing new technologies. For example, the members of the homeland security community have shared guidance and training materials, articles, studies, white papers, videos, and presentations; discussed emerging technologies developed by both S&T and the private sector; and shared referrals to subject matter experts and innovators in the field.
“You must talk directly with the first responders in order to figure out what capabilities and technologies they need,” said NGFR Apex Program Director John Merrill. “If you don’t, they will turn around and ask you, ‘Why do I need this?’ S&T is committed to consistently engaging first responders in the technologies we develop for them and providing a forum for industry and first responders to discuss requirements. We want to help industry help first responders. The National Conversation is one of the ways we’re doing that.”
The Responder of the Future Dialogue has taken place virtually through the S&T Collaboration Community, and in person at town hall meetings in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Texas, and Nevada. Anyone can participate in the meetings: first responders, public sector officials, industry professionals, and members of the public have all taken part in the dialogue. Altogether, more than 1,000 individuals from across the country have participated in the online conversation by posting questions and ideas, leaving comments and replies, and voting for their favorite topics.
The most promising success of the dialogue is the discussions and exchanges that have taken place between operational users of technology and the innovators themselves. FRG is evaluating and incorporating the feedback into its plans to advance first responder initiatives underway and planned. This success is also mirrored in the six other dialogues currently taking place as part of the National Conversation. The other dialogues cover a range of topics related to homeland security technology: Enable the Decision Maker, Screening at Speed, A Trusted Cyber Future, Transforming Airport Borders, Bio/Agro Security Innovation, and Resilient Communities.
Visit the S&T Collaboration Community today to see these discussions