U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents use a mobile truck X-ray to check a seaport container for contraband. As part
of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology directorate’s Technology Transition Agreement framework, 11 integrated product teams have been formed to serve as “customers” for specific areas of research, including
cargo security, chemical and biological defense, infrastructure protection and maritime security.
Kikla said this is a transformational way of operating, because the benefits of science are beyond academic. Scientists will be confident the technology they
are invested in will be used.
“It’s one thing to get people in a room to talk, it’s
another thing when they have to physically put it in
writing,” said Kikla.
Though nobody is legally bound by the TTA the fact
that senior people sit down and discuss the process of
technology research and development — from inception to use — makes the process more worthwhile for
“It’s not personal,” Kikla said, “but they pay more
attention to it.”
The Science and Technology directorate conducts
basic research projects and innovative research projects. About 90 percent of DHS’s research budget is
spent on basic research, with the other 10 percent allocated for innovative research.
About half of total research conducted — basic and
innovative — transitions into the real world. A number of factors prevent such transition. For example,
technology that is developed but is too expensive to
buy might not transition. And, of course, sometimes
technology does not work.
In August, Cohen announced DHS would move two
technology solutions into communities by the end of
this year. One, Bio Watch, is a bio-aerosol monitoring
system to help cities detect a biological attack. The
other, the Safecom program, created communications
standards for first responders.
Kikla’s office sets standards for projects likely to
transition into use, providing agencies such as the
Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection with
timelines, budgets and expectations that translate their
requirements with feasibility.
A physical product compared against budgetary feasibility is what the TTA establishes. Though it is the
Science and Technology directorate’s money on the
table, the TTA will make customers evaluate whether
their ideas for innovation are a high enough priority to
This decision is one unique to DHS.
Cohen’s previous role as head of naval research made
him consider how to take useful technology for the
Navy or Marine Corps and turn it into profitable
research that could be sustained, further developed and
ultimately marketed back to government customers. But
DHS takes this marketing stream beyond federal customers, catering to a wide variety of civic and state entities that use the technology they develop and might
want to look into further technology development.
At the ONR, Cohen promised to develop technology, fund it and deliver it to the Navy and Marine Corps,