DHS Restructures Research Office to Meet Emerging Threats Head On


The new structure will also keep the office from working on projects that will never see the light of day.

The Homeland Security Department restructured its science and technology office to speed up the innovation process and ensure agencies have a hand in shaping the research done on their behalf.

The reorganization, which the Science and Technology Directorate announced Monday, addresses many of the bureaucratic and management challenges that slowed the rollout of new technologies to other agency components, said William Bryan, the senior official performing the duties of the undersecretary for science and technology at Homeland Security.

The new structure to will also streamlines the process of adopting commercial technologies and make it easier for startups to enter the federal marketplace, he said.

“The threat landscape is changing so drastically ... that we needed to have an organization that would be agile and responsive enough to adapt,” Bryan told Nextgov. “I didn’t think S&T was structured to be as responsive as we needed to be to our customers and components. We don’t necessarily have that luxury of waiting three to four years” to develop technologies.

As Homeland Security’s research and development wing, S&T develops technologies that support airport security, first responder safety, cybersecurity and other issues facing agency components.

Under the old structure, program managers were responsible for making every decision for every project in their portfolio, and the components that stood to benefit from those projects often found themselves in the dark on their progress, said Bryan. As a result, projects dragged on and the technologies they produced sometimes didn’t meet the needs of customer agencies, he said.

But after the reorganization, each component will have their own point person within S&T who will assemble research teams and oversee relevant projects. Those representatives will work directly with program managers to ensure efforts remain on track and keep component heads in the loop every step of the way, according to Bryan.

Bryan noted “there’s a high likelihood” that the technologies components need are already available on the commercial market, and as such, the new structure devotes more resources to finding those tools.

“More robust and comprehensive tech scouting is really what’s going to get tools into the hands of our customers faster,” Bryan said. He added he also wants to beef up the office’s work with tech startups, which have so far been “very successful in finding solutions.”

While program managers and industry partners work to address problems facing the agency today, S&T’s newly minted technology centers will continue developing more forward-facing data analytics and modeling tools that teams can use for their programs, according to Bryan. Such work used to be conducted piecemeal across the agency, and integrating them into a single office will allow for more efficient and effective innovation, he said.