3 Challenges Lead to Many Opportunities at DHS

Tomas OKeefe_65x85by Tomas O’Keefe, Senior Analyst

The Department of Homeland Security released its second Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) on June 18, 2014. The QHSR outlines the broad strategic goals of the department over the next four years and is key for technology vendors to be aware of when having conversations with high-level DHS officials. You won’t find information on the next incoming wave of DHS requirements per se, but you’ll find the objectives that are going to inform the types of technology the department is going to look for over the next four years and beyond.

The department has updated its five homeland security missions that were articulated in the first QSHR, and for 2014 they are:

  • Prevent Terrorism and Enhance Security
  • Secure and Manage Our Borders
  • Enforce and Administer Our Immigration Laws
  • Safeguard and Secure Cyberspace
  • Strengthen National Preparedness and Resilience

None of these are surprises for those of us who have followed DHS for years, but the department did put emphasis on some challenges that prompted these updates, and those can lead technology vendors to clues about what the department intends to procure in the future. These challenges include evolving biological and chemical weapon threats, the proliferation of information and communications technologies, and disaster response and the integrity of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Based on these challenges, here’s a breakdown of the types of products that DHS is going to be looking for in the near future.

  1. Detecting Biological and Chemical Weapon Threats

The department has to look for a new solution to detect the biological and chemical weapons threats, because it recently canceled its $6B BioWatch 3 program due to costs ballooning and the technology only detecting, on average, half the pathogens present during tests. DHS is prepping an acquisition strategy for the next iteration of BioWatch, and vendors should reach out to individuals within the Science and Technology Directorate for additional information.

  1. Protecting Information and Communications Technologies

DHS’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program will better protect and enable the federal government to address the second challenge, protecting information and communications technologies on government networks. But the department is still challenged by networks outside its control, and conversations are ongoing about how to incentivize private networks to adopt the NIST cybersecurity framework that has become integral to CDM. The “internet of things” poses a particularly unique challenge for the department as more and more devices become networked. Technology solutions that offer protection from malicious threats and can address the challenges posed by the “internet of things” should certainly reach out to the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications (CS&C), within the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) at DHS.

  1. Mobility and Disaster Recovery

Mobility and disaster recovery solutions are going to be ways that DHS looks to address the last challenge, disaster response and critical infrastructure. There have been some pilot programs that have worked on mobile solutions to identify Americans lost in the aftermath of a disaster (led by FEMA), but don’t neglect the work on the FirstNet initiative that I discussed a few weeks back. Both could provide opportunity going forward. And the NIST cybersecurity framework, now in the hands of NPPD, could help protect critical infrastructure networks from malicious attacks, but it won’t address the disaster recovery angle, particularly if there’s another storm like Hurricane Sandy that did an excellent job of affecting many data centers and their backups back in 2012! Technologies that can strengthen the resiliency of data centers and networks are going to be of real interest to DHS as they focus on meeting this final challenge.

It’s important for technology vendors to understand the QHSR, because while there aren’t direct requirements in the document, DHS executives are going to take achieving the mission as set forth in the document seriously. It wouldn’t hurt to be able to frame how your technology solutions can enable the broader mission objectives of the department, and part of that lies in reflecting DHS’s language back to itself.


About Tomas O'Keefe
Tom O'Keefe has over 10 years of market research experience as an Analyst and Consultant in the federal space. He also earned an MA in Political Science from George Mason University. He has covered both civilian and defense agencies and has presented to clients ranging from junior-level associates to executives from some of the largest Systems Integrators and contractors in the federal marketplace.

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