Homeland Security Unveils Emerging Technologies Road Map

The plan aims to use state-of-the-art capabilities to protect against terrorists, transnational criminal organizations and other threats to the U.S.

John Yellig

June 5, 2024

2 Min Read
The Homeland Security Department seal on a blue brick wall
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The Department of Homeland Security has unveiled its first agency-wide road map for pursuing emerging technologies like AI, advanced sensing and cybersecurity.

The Innovation, Research and Development (IRD) Strategic Plan, developed at the direction of Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, seeks to guide the department’s research and development investments overcoming budget cycles, bring research activities under a common framework and facilitate collaboration with outside entities.

The plan highlights eight Strategic Priority Research Areas (SPRA) to pursue: Advanced Sensing, AI and Autonomous Systems, Biotechnology, Climate Change, Communications and Networking, Cybersecurity, Data Integration, Analytics, Modeling and Simulation and Digital Identity and Trust.

The IRD covers fiscal years 2024-2030 and is overseen by an IRD Council, which is co-chaired by two DHS undersecretaries and includes senior executives from all DHS components. Its creation follows a 2022 directive from Mayorkas calling for the DHS Science and Technology Directorate to develop a coordinated approach to ongoing and future R&D efforts in both the department and across the federal government. It also aims to provide an overview of complementary local, state, nongovernmental and private sector efforts and provide a “demand signal” to these entities for future partnerships and collaborations.

Related:Homeland Security Enlists Top AI Experts to Mitigate Critical Infrastructure Risks

The emerging technologies being pursued provide not only opportunities to improve DHS capabilities but could also pose future threats in the hands of terrorists, transnational criminal organizations, non-state actors or any other entities that would do the U.S. harm.

“A critical goal of the IRD community is to utilize state-of-the-art capabilities to protect and defend the homeland from these myriad risks,” the plan states.

Advances in the technologies will be used to pursue existing core DHS missions, including border security, immigration, counterterrorism and cybersecurity, as well as emergency preparedness and response and combating crimes of exploitation.

Among possible applications under development: advanced-sensing for use in detention alternatives and detecting chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) threats. AI and autonomous systems, meanwhile, are being put toward real-time analysis of future U.S. immigration patterns, detection of threats in soft target and crowded places and wildfire prediction.

Countering threats posed by unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and “liveness checks” and other countermeasures for combating real-time audio or video deepfakes are also on the list of possible applications for the technologies under development.

Related:Homeland Security Unveils AI Road Map, Pilot Programs

“This visionary road map, informed by scientific efforts, will empower DHS and its components to reduce risks to the homeland through optimized innovation, research and development investments,” Dimitri Kusnezov, DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology, said in an announcement. “The technologies resulting from our IRD investments play a critical role in equipping the Department’s front-line operators with necessary tools to outpace our adversaries and enhance our preparedness and response capabilities.”

About the Author(s)

John Yellig

John Yellig has been a journalist for more than 20 years, writing and editing for a range of publications both in print and online. His primary coverage areas over the years have included criminal justice, politics, government, finance, real estate and technology.

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