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DHS Seeks Contractor Partners for Tech Innovation

The Department of Homeland Security is seeking partnerships with private industry contractors to develop new security focused technology solutions that will help protect the country.

“The threat cycle is accelerating – it’s becoming more complex,” DHS Science & Technology Directorate Chief Scientist Sam Howerton said in the opening keynote address at the Government Technology and Services Coalition’s recent Science and Technology (S&T) Day. “We have to get ahead of that.” Howerton said, S&T is working to include identification and detection measures to counter smuggling of synthetic opioids, creating a digital fingerprint of bad actors on the internet, applying AI to forensics, and detecting unmanned aerial systems in areas where they are unauthorized.

S&T also works with its counterparts in DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to create a comprehensive mosaic of cyber threats and understand the adversarial mindset in order to better address risks. DHS’ S&T’s Office of Industry Partnerships focuses on leveraging industry expertise, developing technologies for homeland security, and advancing technologies to the marketplace.

According to Small Business Innovation Research Director Dusty Lang, “We’re doing a lot of work trying to engage with industry, academia, other partners external to DHS so we can leverage, figure out how we can partner with you on solutions. Developing these technologies is challenging.”

DHS S&T Programs include:

·         Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD), which provides grants to U.S. and Israeli entities partnering to develop advanced technologies of mutual interest for homeland security (BIRD Homeland Security Program) and cybersecurity (BIRD Cyber) missions

·         Hacking for Homeland Security (H4HS), which pairs university students with DHS mentors, technical experts, and business leaders to develop innovative solutions for homeland security problems

·         In-Q-Tel Engagement, which is a resource for DHS and federal partners to find innovative and cutting-edge, venture-backed commercial technology

·         Long Range Broad Agency Announcement (LBRAA), which is a standing invitation for members of the scientific and technical communities to propose novel solutions for RDT&E projects in support of national security; DHS S&T’s annual announcement of the LRBAA calls out 17 topics, including four new topics, three updated topics, and 10 enduring topics

·         Prize competitions that crowdsource innovation to harness the creativity of the American public to spur groundbreaking solutions to critical homeland security challenges

·         Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP), which works with startups from around the world to develop and adapt innovative technology for operational missions

·         Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, which works with U.S. small businesses to provide quality research and to develop new processes, products, and technologies in support of U.S. government missions

·         Targeted Broad Agency solicitations that are time-sensitive, topical, and execute defined research and development to deliver practical solutions to homeland security priority needs

To deliver solutions to solve homeland security challenges, DHS S&T coordinates intellectual property rights protection, licensing, and commercialization activities; uses the Commercialization Accelerator Program to increase the likelihood of the successful transfer of federally funded technologies from lab to market; and utilizes cooperative research and development agreements that facilitate collaborative R&D between DHS and a non-federal partner, the Homeland Security Startup Studio that brings together entrepreneurs and inventors to deliver technology solutions for homeland security, and partnership intermediary agreements that bring nonprofit entities with specialized skills to assist DHS with technology transfer and commercialization activities.

S&T’s Industry Liaison is a dedicated point of contact for private-sector organizations to learn about S&T’s mission and R&D needs. To provide capability information, understand requirements and opportunities, or get questions answered, reach out to the industry liaison today at

S&T’s Partnership Guide is a recently released critical resource to learn how the private sector can tap into the S&T network and get started. This guide includes important information on:

·         How S&T supports the full lifecycle of innovation for DHS, including engaging with innovators and other partners, developing and adapting solutions, and supporting the transfer and commercialization of capabilities to homeland security end users

·         Five key mission-focused areas and detailed descriptions of priority RDT&E needs

·         S&T’s partnership pathways, collaboration opportunities, and innovation funding programs to sponsor cutting-edge technology and capability development

·         How you can connect with S&T given your organization type and interests

“Understand what the S&T mission is,” Lang advised. “Working with different roles is important, understanding our customer – who’s the real customer that S&T wants to get to.”

“It’s an exciting time to be working in homeland security,” Howerton said. “There are lots of problems but the solutions are there, too – we just have to surface them.”