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Can 'technology engines' power innovation at DHS?

The Department of Homeland Security has introduced seven technology engines to power "open innovation" and help project managers across the department.  And those engines, while focused on specific technologies, are primarily made of people.

Reginald Brothers, DHS' undersecretary for science and technology, previewed the technology engines last September in congressional testimony, explaining that they would "focus on technology foraging and the development of specific core capabilities and systems that cut across, and benefit, numerous programs and projects across S&T’s portfolio."  John S. Verrico, a spokesman for the Science and Technology Directorate, told GCN that the technology engines debuted in June.

According to a DHS fact sheet, the engines "harness subject matter expertise and capabilities" across the department, and while also tapping into the broader technological, scientific, industrial and academic communities to "identify and share subject matter expertise, technical solutions and tools, best practices, lessons learned and reusable products and solutions."

By consolidating such expertise and then making it available as needed to different projects, DHS hopes the engines will "represent an agile approach to identify, develop and repurpose R&D solutions."

The data analytics engine, for example, will provide expertise and tools to help with projects that deal with storage, security and computations to help with homeland security systems, missions and operations.

The situational awareness and decision support engine will provide access to databases and shared situational awareness products, while the identity access and management engine will protect important data, making sure the right people have access through security credentials, authentication and authorization.

The other engines focus on behavioral, economic and social science; communication and networking; manufacturing; and modeling and simulations.   In addition to expertise and best practices, the engines aim to provide "contractual means for more timely response to R&D service requests."

The Science and Technology Directorate's Apex programs are seen as the technology engines' primary customers.  Those programs are designed to look deep into the nation’s security needs -- everything from how people entering the United States are screened to the potential of a bio-surveillance system that can integrate and analyze data from multiple sources and provide real-time, actionable information -- in order to address future challenges.

The engines will tailor their work to support each Apex program’s individual focus and capability needs, DHS said.  But according to Brothers' testimony, the engines are also expected to "push for integration of universal needs and capabilities ... into projects throughout S&T."

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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