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DHS S&T strategy highlights the Homeland Security Industrial Base

The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) at the Department of Homeland Security released a new five-year strategic plan this week, a detailed document that succinctly articulates and aligns the Directorate’s priority areas of research and engagement for the next five years. The report highlights the five visionary goals that S&T announced last fall, and it explains how S&T plans to address management and workforce issues, a very important priority given S&T’s record of low employee morale for the last several years.

One notable aspect of the strategy is the focus on the Homeland Security Industrial Base, or HSIB for short; a term that had not previously been used widely within DHS until S&T Under Secretary Reggie Brothers started using it last year, as a variant of the well-known concept of a Defense Industrial Base. The report articulates the concept of a HSIB as follows:

Unlike many other industries with well-defined sets of products, technologies, and customers, the HSIB is a highly fragmented federation of product and service providers serving a broad constituency. Customers and their needs vary widely, from ships for the U.S. Coast Guard to protective gear for first responders to cyber defense tools for power plants. This degree of fragmentation means that many companies with leading-edge technologies are often small and more challenging to locate and engage. Simultaneously, federal, state, and local agencies are spending less on R&D for next-generation technologies. Therefore, it is critical that S&T collaborate with the HSIB to capitalize on industry investments in R&D and encourage the development of force multiplying solutions that defend, defeat, and mitigate threats to the nation.

In order to energize the HSIB, S&T will revamp existing programs so industry can more easily partner with S&T. We will also develop new approaches to engage non-traditional companies. The following initiatives highlight specific activities that will help us achieve this objective.

This focus on the Homeland Security Industrial Base as part of S&T’s strategy will hopefully catalyze efforts to address the noted fragmentation of homeland security markets and technologies. This fragmentation has led many companies in the past decade to settle for opportunistic investments in the homeland security market, rather than taking a long-term, strategic approach with respect to investments in homeland security research and development, as they often do in other markets and domains.

If S&T’s efforts with respect to the HSIB can help to encourage standard-setting, reduce duplication, and decrease market fragmentation, the Department will likely find itself dealing with a stronger, more engaged set of industry partners in the coming years, who can be a force multiplier for S&T’s own investments in its portfolio of research challenges.