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  5. Bonus Episode: We Accomplished Some Really Amazing Things in a Really Challenging Time

We Accomplished Some Really Amazing Things in a Really Challenging Time

TS Minisode 15 We Accomplished Some Really Amazing Things in a Really Challenging Time

In this very special episode of Technologically Speaking, listen as past and present S&T leaders recall the life-changing impacts of 9/11, discuss how S&T came to be, and reflect on their personal legacies at the Directorate. You’ll hear everything from where they were when the Twin Towers fell and the increasing risk of chemical threats in S&T’s early days to the science and technology battling the COVID-19 pandemic and rise of artificial intelligence today. These eight leaders share their accounts of what it was like to helm a research and development agency in the face of some of the most significant national events of our time.

Run time: 34:43
Release date: September 11, 2023

Show Notes


Guests: S&T’s Past and Present (Acting and Confirmed) Under Secretaries – Dr. Chuck McQueary, Rear Admiral Jay Cohen, Dr. Tara O'Toole, Dr. Reggie Brothers, Dr. Robert Griffin, Mr. William Bryan, Ms. Kathryn Coulter Mitchell and Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov.

[00:00:00] Chuck McQueary: I remember where I was on 9 11 very well. I was in Whippany, New Jersey at 8:45 in the morning and we had just started our meeting. And, shortly before nine o'clock, the security officer came in and said, a plane has hit one of the World Trade Center buildings. And we didn't think too much about it because we all thought of the time that a small plane had run into the Empire State Building. And, then about a few minutes later, the same security officer came in and said, another plane has hit another building. And so we knew then that something entirely different from what we'd ever experienced as a country was going on.  

[00:00:34] Deepak: Hello, I'm Deepak Saini with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, or S&T, as we call it. Today, we have a very special episode of Technologically Speaking to commemorate S and T's 20th anniversary. Our team had the honor of sitting down and speaking with eight of the Under Secretaries, both official and acting, who have helmed the directorate over the past two decades. The voice you heard to open this episode was Dr. Charles McQueary, S and T's first Under Secretary. He served from 2003 to 2006, much like the leaders that followed him. When Dr. McQueary got the call to lead S&T, he rose to the challenge. After the events of 9 11, he felt the need to serve and wanted to do everything he could to protect the nation. Now here, Dr. McQueary explains how he approached building S&T from the ground up.

[00:01:30] Chuck McQueary: It really comes, I think, in two pieces. I thought about it in the context of this is a job to be done. And it was, quite frankly, some experience base that I had because I worked in technology my entire career. And so, I understood the other side of this, which I had far less experience in obviously, was all the ins and outs of how the congressional issues work and the relationship with the Congress. But, when you're building a team, the key thing, there's a couple of things to remember. One, I never hesitated in trying to bring in people that were a lot smarter than I was or am because the way you build strong teams is to have, everyone has got an expertise and a capability that they bring. And it's not necessary or even desirable, in my mind, for the senior person to have to know everything and have the capability to do all those things because not, first of all, it's not possible, at least in my experience. So I was focused on thinking about how do we build a strong team, the strongest team that we can, and how do we build relationships with national laboratories, with industry, with the Congress. And so, it's a matter of building relationships, building a strong team.

[00:02:41] Deepak: Dr. McQueary did in fact build a very strong team and a big one, growing S&T from 10 people to about 400 during his tenure. Now listen to how Dr. McQueary and his team evaluated the threat landscape to determine what pose the greatest dangers and where S&T would apply the greatest focus.

[00:03:04] Chuck McQueary: The challenges that we had were the diverse nature of the threats that we face, the chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear. And one of the, I think, insightful things that came out as we talked more and more about this, we realized these, the threats can be, parsed into really two different categories. Maybe others, but two large categories are temporal threats. In other words, they're time dependent or spatial threats, or they're dependent upon space, in other words. And I think of two good examples, COVID that went on that was a temporal threat. I mean, you had one person and then gradually it spreads over the country. So it, it's, over time it spreads. Whereas if you have a, an explosive event or something, yes it does huge damage wherever the explosion might take place. But there is some perimeter beyond, which there is no damage. From that, and it doesn't grow. So, you're think of putting things in those two, kind of categories. And then when you realize that the biological threat, becomes one of the more insidious, threats to have to deal with, and you realize it's got to have high priority.

[00:04:09] Deepak: And here Dr. McQueary sums up what success means in our business.

[00:04:15] Chuck McQueary: If nothing bad happens, that's good. that's the way you measure success. So, it was a different kind of a job, but that was okay. And you adjust to that and feel happy you can be a part of trying to help make sure that nothing bad happens to the country.

[00:04:28] Deepak: After 38 years of active duty in the United States Navy, Rear Admiral Jay Cohen came out of retirement to lead the Directorate. He served as Under Secretary from 2006 to 2009. We asked Admiral Cohen what it was like when he first took the helm at S&T and what kind of expectations he faced.

[00:04:49] Admiral Jay Cohen: So, I was sworn in in August and friends and relatives were there was a great honor, great honor. But turns out the night before in London, there had been a liquid explosives plot. And you may or may not remember that, but the terrorists had brought liquid explosives on bottles in their luggage, carry on, et cetera. And when the planes flying from England to the US were over the Atlantic, they were going to blow up these liquid explosives and bring the planes down. And well, fortunately the British Security Services detected it. So, I get sworn in that morning. I was surprised Secretary Chertoff was able to do that because he'd been up all night with the aftermath of this plot and what might happen next. But he swore me in. It was a very nice ceremony. I was honored. I got back to my office, and I think this was a Thursday, and the phone rings and it's very senior members of Congress, both parties, Senate, House, and they said, Admiral, congratulations on being sworn in. You've been in a job a day. Tomorrow's Friday, we're flying home to our home district. And we just heard that Transportation Security Agency, T S A has announced because the liquid explosives plot, we won't be able to take our carryon on the plane. And candidly, we're just going home for the weekend to be with our constituents. And normally we just have carryon. Admiral, you've been in a job a day, why haven't you fixed this? So, they knew me and I said, well, you're very kind. I appreciate your calling. I said, may I have the weekend?

[00:06:29] Deepak: The discussion then moved to the evolving nature of the threats that the country faced during Admiral Cohen's time at S&T and the creation of a graphic threat model.

[00:06:40] Admiral Jay Cohen: We didn't know what the next shoe is going to fall. And then of course we had the anthrax letters. So, it wasn't just about turning civilian aircraft into flying bombs, buzz bombs, we now had chemical threats. We didn't know what would come next. But I had this made early on.

[00:06:59] Deepak: The Admiral then showed our team an old paper printout of a graph with an X and Y axis.

[00:07:05] Admiral Jay Cohen: It's called a terrorist roadmap. And it has on the left-hand side the likelihood of it happening low to high. Okay? And then the consequences of something happening low to high and in the upper right likelihood of happening and consequences of happening is cyber warfare. And net remains true today, 20 years plus after 9 11. Cyber warfare. Cyber issues have the highest probability of occurrence with the greatest potential consequence. Not to diminish any of the other threats, but that's a big one.

[00:07:52] Deepak: having helped navigate S&T out of its infancy, we asked Admiral Cohen for his thoughts on s and t's role in combating future threats.

[00:08:01] Admiral Jay Cohen: We don't know what the next threat will be. Having an established funded coherent. Component of DHS of Science and Technology with qualified government service people who are motivated to keep the nation safe, who have cooperative agreements with Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice, Department of Defense, universities, laboratories, and international engagement means we will be one step ahead. Keeping America safe, it's worth the investment.

[00:08:43] Deepak: Dr. Tara O'Toole is a public health physician with an expertise in biosecurity and biodefense. She served as Under Secretary from 2009 to 2014 due to terrorist attacks on US soil and abroad, as well as natural disasters. Dr. O'Toole saw the scope of S and T's work and figured it would need to expand.

[00:09:07] Tara O'Toole: Well, it was clear that terrorism was still a problem. And it was also pretty clear by then that natural disasters, and so forth, would be on the menu. Figuring out how you protect airplanes, for example, is a very different problem from figuring out how to protect soldiers on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan. You can't really armor up a plane and have it fly, and you also have to get hundreds of people on that plane fairly efficiently. So those were very difficult technical problems. Then we had the, disaster with the oil rig in the Gulf where it was pouring oil into the water.

[00:09:55] Tara O'Toole: So the question was, you know, how do we fix it? What is the damage? How could the Coast Guard be deployed to help limit the damage? and then we had the tornado in Joplin, Missouri. What are we going to do about climate change? Mitigating those effects is going to depend upon what we can come up with, in terms of science to understand what's really happening and technology to somehow counterbalance it or diminish greenhouse gases.

[00:10:26] Tara O'Toole: Then what if we had this huge epidemic, natural or deliberate on our hands, how would we take care of people. Managing healthcare as we saw during the COVID pandemic is a very complicated business that requires people who actually understand infectious diseases. And because of the scope of missions, you know, FEMA does very different things from Customs and Borders does very different things from T S A, et cetera, et cetera. So the challenge seemed to be how does S&T help the operating Components, find, adopt, and use technologies that will make their jobs more effective and more efficient?

[00:11:07] Deepak: S and T's. Mission is in both size and scope, truly staggering. Dr. O'Toole later spoke about the evolution of both the threat and solution landscapes and what that means for us all.

[00:11:21] Tara O'Toole: This is going to be the age of biology. our understanding of how living things operate is converging with the digital revolution, which allows us to observe and measure life at the nanometer level, as well as at the planetary level. So, biology is going to be a main focus of innovation and of economic competitiveness. And it's going to be essential to solving some of the world's biggest problems, including how do we manage pandemics? How do we feed the world and maintain food security? How do we maintain the wellbeing of the planet in ourselves? And because technology makes our world, it behooves us to understand it better and to understand both the good side and the bad side of these very powerful technologies. Power always has a dark side. The same is true with technology. So we definitely have to grow out our technological base in coming years because we have problems that we have to solve and technology is going to be a part of those solutions, but we also have to be much more attentive to how we use technologies. We have to grow out not just our technology, but our understanding of technology, our ability to use it ethically and responsibly.

[00:12:50] Deepak: Dr. Reggie Brothers served as Under Secretary from 2014 to 2017. Dr. Brothers has a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science from M I T. And here he describes some of the cultural differences regarding the use of technology that he experienced when he made the jump from the Department of Defense to S&T.

[00:13:12] Reggie Brothers: In the Pentagon, in D O D, there's a lot of training, right? So, you've got your deployed forces, you've got your force in garrison, it's a lot of time for training in law enforcement organizations like DHS. There's not that much time for training. So, when it comes to actually using new technology, it's really tough. So, it's not like you can come in and win some brand new technology in law enforcement and expect it to be welcomed or used because it's hard to train on it. It's hard to integrate into existing systems. Not only that, there's not the same culture of we're going to use technologies to defeat our enemies, right? It's not the same in law enforcement. So, I think there's a real cultural difference, not just budgetary, but cultural difference that I found in D O D versus DHS.

[00:13:55] Deepak: As the threats to the nation continued to evolve, so did the approach to combat them.

[00:14:02] Reggie Brothers: Creativity. So, now I'm going to talk about something I'm really passionate about. It's called User Producer Innovation, right? And what is that? So user producer innovation is where the person or the people who are involved in a given task and they want to do it better in some way. They work with the technologists, or they may be the technologists themselves to figure what the solution is. That's how the mountain bike industry started. I was first exposed to it working with the Navy Seals when I was at, in Department of Defense. They have a series of experiments, as they call them, but you actually work with the operators, the door kickers, what have you. They help you understand not just what their mission is, but how they do their mission. They bring a whole bunch of technologists together in one place, and then you co-invent. And you co-invent. So, I think the way you use creativity is you take really smart people, put them in an environment with users so they can co-create what you need. And we actually did that. So, we did that. We actually borrowed from D O D. We took Customs and Border Patrol, and other parts of DHS to Arizona to do the same kind of experiment. And they actually developed, ATAK, which they use right now. And this is developed with the technologists and the users working together to solve a problem of communication that C B P had.

[00:15:21] Deepak: Dr. Brothers also offered his thoughts on the future threat landscape and S and T's role going forward.

[00:15:29] Reggie Brothers: I think the challenge we have is that we are very linear in the way we think, right? So, so you could ask me what do I think is going to happen? I think what's ever going to happen is something I can’t, I can't think of, right? I don't know, right? Because that's the history of innovation. we get these disruptions that we don't anticipate, and they go forward. But what I can say is that as these technology innovations happen, they'll happen more quickly because that's definitely a trend right now. And S&T is going to be in a position. If they're able to keep a broad aperture on what's going on to apply these to real homeland security mission problems. Now with some of the biological sciences, CRISPR and other kinds of things, there's concerns as well, right? I hope that we start thinking about ethical frameworks for these new technologies before we start deploying them, so that we can have the right types of policies and regulations in place before we run into some challenges with these things.

[00:16:23] Deepak: And a final thought from Dr. Brothers.

[00:16:27] Reggie Brothers: If you look at starting with what is DHS, right? You start at, a FEMA, right? You start at C B P, you start at the Coast Guard, and you start at TSA. These are things that touch people all the time. In order for them to do their job, which to make us safe, they need technology. So at the end of the day, S&T is about bringing the knowledge of science and technology to the problem to make us safe every day.

[00:16:52] Deepak: Dr. Bob Griffin led S&T in 2017. On 9 11, as the chief of Fire and Rescue for Loudoun County, Virginia he spearheaded the county's Emergency Operations Center's response to the Pentagon. Here's how that fateful day unfolded for him.

[00:17:10] Robert Griffin: 9 11, 2001 was an absolutely beautiful day in the Washington, DC area. It was a Tuesday. It was one of those lovely fall days where it was cool enough to get out and want to be outside. At the time all my senior staff in a typical Tuesday staff meeting. The 9 1 1 center, called up and interrupted the meeting at about quarter to nine said, you know, chief turn on the TV, you're going to want to see this. And we were getting reports out of New York about the plane, first plane hitting the World Trade Center. It was interesting because we, we sort of speculated, you know, that the pilot have a heart attack. It really didn't occur to us initially that it was a terrorist attack. Not long afterwards, it began to get reports of a second. And I remember distinctly the, the second plane being reported hitting the buildings and the reporter being absolutely hysterical. And quickly after that we realized that we were in a completely different environment. We immediately started to bring additional resources in. We stood up our Emergency Operations Center and then we got three reports from the Pentagon. And then not long after that, we started to get calls from our mutual aid partners in Virginia. And we were initially asked to send a task force. And, a task force was two pumpers, a medic unit, a battalion chief and a specialty unit, a ladder or a squad. And not long after that the call came in, and the request was send us everything you've got.

[00:18:38] Deepak: We asked Dr. Griffin how technology or the lack of it played a role in his response during the 9 11 attacks.  

[00:18:46] Robert Griffin: It was interesting, because is a time before cell phones. We actually, we're sending units into Arlington, to the Pentagon where we hadn't run before. They were stopping at 7 11s and getting map books because it was paper maps and we didn't have any of those in a lot of our units. So, you start to see where technology could have played a much, much larger role.

[00:19:10] Deepak: Here's how Dr. Griffin relays what he was thinking while he was managing the response.

[00:19:16] Robert Griffin: I knew this was a, a pivotal point in our country. And that even while we were helping with the response, I recognized that the world had fundamentally changed. My experiences on 9 11 helped drive my commitment to overall homeland security. It also drove though, a broader commitment to science and technology in realizing that we can keep the nation safer.

[00:19:43] Deepak: Dr. Griffin also wanted to make sure he highlighted some of the little-known work that S&T does work that makes a big difference.

[00:19:54] Robert Griffin: I think some of the work that we did on, on, on data sharing, I know some of the work that we did in creating, national networks, whether it was emergency managers or fire and rescue or law enforcement, was incredibly important on a couple of different levels. The ability to understand and synthesize the needs at a national level was important. But more importantly, creating that network of responders who we then became the leaders in those agencies. The work that they did in identifying vulnerabilities in cyber, vulnerabilities in vehicles of many different types is something that they should be very proud of.

[00:20:33] Robert Griffin: The work that they've done with the national labs, both the ones that they control, and the ones that they work in conjunction with the Department of Energy have done incredible work, the work that they did on helping to weave together a system for public safety communications and understanding vulnerabilities. A lot of the work that S&T doesn't get credit for are really foundational in the sense that nobody really gets excited about, radios that work because people assume that they should. But what people don't understand is what it feels like when those radios don't work and you're in a scene. And I can tell you from experience, that's a really, really lonely feeling. So, I think some of the elements of research there, I think some of the research that, that, S&T continues to do I think is, is key.

[00:21:16] Deepak: William Bryan led S&T from 2017 to 2021. He brought a lifetime of service to his position, including 17 years of active duty US Army experience, another three years in the Virginia National Guard before continuing his service to the country in a variety of different civilian posts within the federal government. Here Mr. Brian shares his experience on the threats and challenges posed by emerging technologies.

[00:21:44] Bill Bryan: First let me talk about tactical challenges. Advancements in technology is rapid. We used to look at over the horizon as being 10 to 20 years, and now over the horizon is three years. It's advancing so quickly and it's hard. It's very difficult. And when you're working in a bureaucracy to try to keep up with the threats that technologies pose, that the enemy wants to impose on us. And then we have our own restrictions, which are challenging. We have, privacy issues versus access to information. You take UAVs. N F L game had to be stopped because a U A V flew over the stadium, right? You have, things like deepfake and other kind of technologies that we have to get our hands around and if our hands are always tied because of privacy concerns, the enemy has an advantage. So, I think we have to find the right balance. That's how I deal with it tactically. Strategically, you have things like quantum computing. What is that going to do for us? How do we defend that going forward? Do we have the capability to do that? Do we have the right people equipped to handle that challenge? So, we had to be ready to counter that. And that's a strategic focus.

[00:22:42] Deepak: Emerging threats can come in all forms, including a global pandemic. Here, Mr. Brian discusses S and T's response to COVID, specifically the work of S and T'S National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasure Center known as NBACC.

[00:22:59] Bill Bryan: As far as the responsiveness around COVID, that was probably one of the biggest challenges I faced in my time in the Department. But you know what, with the NBACC, the labs, the scientists that we have were on top of it. They were stupendous when it came to figuring this out. And we're able to get hold of the virus and actually lead the charge in figuring out how that, how the virus could be transmitted, how long it could live on surfaces, whether it was hot weather or cold weather. But what's important to note is that we were actually mentioned in publications, we were actually contributed international databases for other sciences around the globe studying the same problem and contributing to their research to find faster solutions to solve this problem. So, I'm very proud of our lab for being able to get that involved and have such international acclaim for the work that they were doing. And that was all the credit and kudos go to our scientists and engineers at our lab.

[00:23:47] Deepak: Now let's hear what Mr. Brian found when he visited S&T teams out on the field.  

[00:23:54] Bill Bryan: I did go out and see several technologies in action. What impressed me the most about every one of these visits were, number one, the collaboration. We didn't do things in isolation. We worked with the interagency, we worked with the private sector. We never went off and did it on our own. I'm not sure people realized how collaborative the Department of Homeland Security was in doing these tests. And the other thing I want to focus on is, the energy and the passion that they brought to these tests. Words can't explain it. But all I can tell you is that it made me very proud and it gave me a whole new respect for the capabilities that S&T brought into this field, science and technology.

[00:24:30] Deepak: Kathryn Coulter Mitchell led the Directorate from 2021 to 2022 at a critical time this 15-year S&T veteran, who was serving as S and T's Chief of Staff, answered the call and rose to meet countless existing and unexpected challenges. With the country still in the throes of COVID, her steady leadership provided comfort while she still kept S&T mission focused.

[00:24:57] Kathryn Coulter Mitchell: I think we accomplished some really amazing things in a really challenging time. We had COVID but also tried to make people feel welcome and feel valued and still feel a member of the team while taking care of people's health and wellbeing and figuring out that balance for everyone while also serving the mission as S&T. COVID was a very unique experience that nobody had been through before. So, we learned it all together as we went. I think my biggest learning experience through COVID, was we are completely capable of serving in a remote capacity. People really stepped up and we actually had to spend much more attention on making sure people didn't burn out. And people, still had that work life balance and took care of themselves during COVID while working at home. So, we were able to not just conduct our mission, but also really take care of our people in a trying time where the work mattered.

[00:25:47] Deepak: Here's Ms. Coulter Mitchell talking about S and T's role in the Afghan refugee airlift known as Operation Allies Welcome.

[00:25:57] Kathryn Coulter Mitchell: The Secretary called me the morning that the Department was put in charge of the Afghan refugees, and said, send me over scientists, send me over technologists. And we immediately called upon our best folks who, who went up to the office and worked for weeks. We had people fly overseas to different landing zones. We had people here at the airports and we actually had one of our own, leading the Quantico site of Afghan refugees. So, it was an exciting time where we were asked to serve in a real operational type capacity and enable science to really inform the decisions that he was making.

[00:26:29] Deepak: Playing a central role in the largest non-combatant evacuation airlift in US history is a true testament to S&T and its people, and also to Ms. Coulter Mitchell's leadership. And speaking of s and t's people, Ms. Coulter Mitchell has a special message for the workforce.

[00:26:49] Kathryn Coulter Mitchell: During my time at S&T, I've had the opportunity to visit a lot of component sites, a lot of S&T test sites, around the country. And the thing I hear most often when I go out to our customers and components is just thank you for what you do. Because it's often not seen, but it's truly foundational to all of the technological advances and systems improvements that they're able to make. You often don't get the credit because it is the foundation of everything, then the components build upon, and that's really important for us to remember. You know, I just say we're the chip makers of the computer. You don't know who makes the chips, but the computers wouldn't work without the chips. And that's really what S&T is. Science and technology to me, mean the foundation of everything. Science truly is at the foundation of every decision that we make, every item that we operationalize, and every move that we make. Now, science is being recognized more than ever before as a key component to the decision making process. So, we've had the opportunity here at S&T over the last few years to really figure out and build upon our advisory capabilities, knowing that when the Secretary, when the White House, when our component leadership are looking to make decisions, they actually want that scientific and technological perspective to be part of that decision making process. So, it's been extremely exciting.

[00:28:08] Deepak: And finally, we spoke with Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov, the current Under Secretary for Science and Technology. He took the reins in 2022. Dr. Kusnezov got his PhD in theoretical and mathematical physics from Princeton University. His experience spans years in academia before he transitioned into multiple positions with various federal agencies. That includes the National Nuclear Security Agency and Department of Energy. Here, Dr. Kusnezov shares his thoughts on some of the challenges that S&T faces.

[00:28:42] Dimitri Kusnezov: So, you can ask the question, how can you make screening at the airports faster, more effective, less invasive? How can you lock down the borders? How do you track fentanyl and the networks? And there, there are basic things like that in terms of questions that are natural, that are aligned with what people are doing every day, where incremental changes in technology can make a difference. The question is, well, is that the path that is best suited to what the future holds for us? And that's what, I like about the S&T mission. You only have to look up at the Arctic and realize how many more times, three to four times faster in terms of heating. What's happening with permafrost, what's happening with the border or the coastal towns and communities? What does resilience mean? When costs are too high to, to move things, what do you do? How do you adapt to things? What is it you should be prepared for as the world around us is changing, in ways that are beyond our control? What does it mean for migration of people from less resilient parts of the world to more resilient parts? I mean, there, there are all kinds of these issues tied to climate, for example. Technology is emerging and developing in certain ways. And I think technology is blurring the definitions of words and concepts we have had. Take the border, the border used to be physical border where commerce went through the border and mail went through the border and transactions and currency went through the border and people went through the border. There was a physicality to it. Now, I would say there was also a large virtual piece to the border, which is not located with the border itself. How do we account for that? Cryptocurrency exchanges, child exploitation, pick your area. It's a virtual world that these things live in. and the conventional definitions that we grew up on in thinking about things in kind of their historical context are not really the right definitions for tomorrow. How do we think about that world? How do we make sure that we're going to be okay? We have a lot of smart people, so I'm sure we will be, but it will take work to make sure we're ahead of the game in this.

[00:31:21] Deepak: And this is a really thought-provoking segment where Dr. Kusnezov talks about the relationship between innovation and risk tolerance.

[00:31:31] Dimitri Kusnezov: Well, you know, I think in taking risk in enabling people to, to innovate where they can with risk, hand in hand comes failure. So, you have to be ready to, for things to fail if you want to be taking enough risks to try and innovate. So, you can't innovate without having missteps and learning along the way so you can't beat people up for guessing wrong or for trying something that doesn't pan out. If you're not failing at anything, you're not leaning forward enough. When I learned to ski, I measured it by, how many times I took a hard fall, not just fell over, but really took some serious falls. And if I didn't have a few of those every day, then I wasn't skiing hard enough. If I didn't fall at all, I would've said, no, I'm not really learning. So, you try the harder slopes, you try the moguls, you try different kinds of snow, and you push yourself. And when you fall, you get back up and you keep going, and then you go back to the top and you start again. And it's like that in the mission space. If you want to try and get better and do something, the organization has to have a tolerance for doing that, that when you fall down in the snow, people don't say, oh my God, look, you know, this is a mistake. No, it's not a mistake. This is part of how we learn and improve and get better at what we're trying to do. So, I would like that kind of culture to be pervasive.

[00:32:58] Deepak: And finally, we asked Dr. Kusnezov about the importance of S&T serving the country and protecting the nation.

[00:33:07] Dimitri Kusnezov: For me, you know, and I think it's personal. I would say working in government, certainly in the US, is an honor and probably a unique place to shape the direction of this country in ways you would never do anywhere else. For me right now, I worry about the world that, I'm leaving to my grandkids. I want it to be better. I want to do as much as I personally can to ensure that I've done all I can to make it a better world, to make it a safer country. And I hope at the end of the day when my time is up here, I can say at least I pushed the ball forward on these things here. I hope I can say that.

[00:33:51] Deepak: Having risen from the ashes of 9 11. S&T remains dedicated to its original mission, but it has nimbly evolved to meet the ever-changing modern threat. Happy Birthday S&T. 20 years and going strong. Keep fighting that good fight. We'll see you next time. This has been Technologically Speaking, the official podcast of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate. To hear more insights from these Under Secretaries, check out our show notes on the Technologically Speaking podcast page. And don't forget to view our S&T 20th anniversary video. And to learn more about S&T, visit us online at scitech.DHS.gov and follow us on social media at DHSScitech. Thanks for listening. Bye.

Last Updated: 04/01/2024
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