I was amazed how no matter where I went in any governmental agency as the first Chief Commercialization Officer working at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the White House (WH) that folks working in Science and Technology (S&T) groups regularly were working (in fact, many for years!) on solutions that either already existed or could be rapidly deployed with some modifications to existing technologies or products. I would speak to folks across government and would ask, “Where would speed-of-execution be more important than protection our people and property?” Please do not mistake this as being the fault of government employees. In fact, it has been commonly known that government workers have learned to rate one another (because the system rewards it) on how many other government folks work for you and your budget. Note that I did not mention anything about ACCOMPLISHMENT! It’s time to develop and implement a system where rewards are given to government personnel for solving problems (i.e., accomplishing goals) with the highest possible speed-of-execution, using the minimal amount of taxpayer monies. To this end, I’d like to share a proposal that I initiated and wrote about at DHS as early as November 2011 that would enable the U.S. government and other governmental institutions to accomplish much more in a shorter amount of time – with much less wasted time and money.
There is an immediate, current need for a comprehensive set of global research services to effectively and efficiently answer both general and detailed questions to gain, if necessary, ALL Practically Obtainable Knowledge (APK) that can aid in the fielding of highly impactful capabilities. Since October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, let’s use DHS, who’s in charge of the U.S. government’s approach to mitigating cyber threats, as a case study.
For the Homeland Security Enterprise (HSE) in the case of DHS – or any similar set of stakeholders for the Department of Defense (DOD), or Department of Energy (DOE), etc. – research services are needed to gain a keen understanding of any given technology, scientific area, branch of science, method, process, procedure, industry, company, organization, etc., related to a topic of interest. Research services should capture information in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to, patent applications or activity, published articles, market information, conference proceedings, research reports, etc., on a GLOBAL basis that include both U.S. federally funded and non-federally funded R&D activities, as well as ALL other practically obtainable sources of information within the public and private sectors already resident within an S&T group or external to the group. Essentially, this service shall answer the question “What is being done in the area of [blank]?”
The information gained from these services can play a vital role in deploying capabilities. The information can contribute to evaluating the value of starting new projects, considering potential partnership opportunities for technology/product/system development, conducting Analyses of Alternatives (AoA) and other activities that can streamline and improve an S&T group’s ability to significantly contribute to the HSE. Collaboration between S&T program managers, leadership and legal and procurement specialists to review information, assess alternatives and plan future investments creates an environment that is agile, forward-looking and prepared to address new and emerging challenges for our partners. S&T personnel would have the potential to gain useful and actionable information on activities relevant to HSE needs underway in other federal agencies, the national labs, the private sector and university communities that can be leveraged through technology transfer, MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding), MOAs (Memorandum of Agreement), CRADAs (Cooperative Research and Development Agreement) and other vehicles that enhance S&T capabilities offered to the HSE.
Prioritizing S&T Requirements and Identifying Immediate, Intermediate and Long-Term Needs:
S&T should receive inputs from DHS stakeholders (operating components, directorates, first responders and/or CIKR owners and operators), Congress, the S&T internal processes, leadership initiatives and S&T personnel on potential technology/capability needs. Requirements are the foundation for identifying and developing/evaluating viable potential solutions. In addition, a proposed project description provides the context for conducting global research services and forms the basis for potential procurement activities resulting from collected information.
In order to initiate the global research process, DHS S&T personnel need to provide detailed requirements whenever possible. The S&T requirement/need/capability is the best driver for an initial filtering and global research analysis, while a requested analysis time frame helps in identifying the best sources of the initial technology scan/market research.
For example, an immediate need (0-2 years) would best be addressed by looking for current commercial technologies, even if those technologies are not currently and completely aligned with the DHS requirement/need. If necessary, these commercial technologies can be adapted or enhanced to meet the DHS requirement through proper planning and procurement activities. The farther out the development need, the more capability an S&T group has to move toward basic research and development-based institutions found in the public and private sectors.
Through the identification of detailed requirements and the prioritization of these requirements, DHS S&T’s global research service could leverage analytical tools, which can be combined with a potential list of S&T partners to build a robust and adaptive technology development road map.
The following is a graphical representation of a proposed preliminary process to implement to search and analyze technologies/alternatives/solutions contained in the private sector, national laboratories, university community, etc. across the globe:
Global Research Services could be used to provide answers to questions from program managers, division directors, leadership at an S&T group and a number of other constituencies at DHS headquarters, Congress, etc. Framing these questions requires an understanding of the threat, existing system shortfalls, capabilities required, system support, potential alternative solutions and the concepts of operations. These inputs will come from DHS operating components, first responders and CIKR (Critical Infrastructure and Key Resource), owners and operators through DHS division heads/program managers/etc., who can help define the research path, if desired, for the global research service. In general, the inputs and the preliminary methodology can often be developed in parallel; however, the scope of the analysis and methodology often converge to its final form over time based on available information, the depth and breadth of the information required and the prioritization of specific programs or activities by leadership.
A Knowledge Management Office (KMO) could be formed to be responsible for coordinating and conducting these efforts related to Global Research Services. The KMO would be responsible to create the policies, procedures, resources and templates that will facilitate the adoption and execution of Global Research Services at DHS, for example. The KMO could serve a critical support function to assist program managers in developing well-thought-out information requests, interacting with the Global Research Services performer and monitoring and refining ongoing research activities. DHS should rely heavily on the insight and expertise of a KMO to ensure the proper use and execution of Global Research Services. It will be equally critical to ensure that the collected information could be utilized for the desired result whether to find alternative solutions, learn about other activities to find partners and for management to conduct effective planning activities.
Information Gathering Process
The interaction between S&T personnel internally, as well as externally with other program managers across government and with industry directly at conferences, demos, and other activities are extremely beneficial to build a complete understanding of an S&T activity. In addition, an S&T group represents a vast network of connectivity as “transmitters and receivers” of information from partners across the HSE. Leveraging these relationships through internal requests for information to answer questions sent to the Global Research Services should bring additional information and points of contact that will create more robust searches for S&T. For example, an S&T group should have many connections with FEMA, CBP and other federal organizations who may be able to provide their perspective and information on activities taking place on a regional, state and/or local level. The International Cooperative Programs Office has similar connections with the global science and technology community that can significantly bolster the amount of available information that can contribute to a successful research activity.
The search for information on relevant programs, projects and activities, and available or emerging technologies/alternatives/solutions identified within the private sector and in other federal, state, and local government organizations, should be conducted. This search process requires a team effort and should include a detailed scan of internal S&T databases, repositories, etc., and could use a survey, phone calls, an official request for information (RFI), professional and trade association contacts, and/or other queries, and should be documented along with the analysis and results of the global research report.
Identify and Select the Most Viable Alternatives/ Potential Solutions:
The selected global research methodology should explain the approach that is being used to conduct the research. Information requests should identify the necessary level of research needed to provide sufficient information in return. Broad technology landscape surveys or “quick scans” and “deep-dive” research have distinct specificity, timeline and resource requirement considerations. The detail of information that the requestor can collect in terms of the threat, capability gaps, requirements and concepts of operations can be a limiting factor in the potential depth that research is able to reach and ultimately establish the research scope and methodology for a given search. Fundamentally, Global Research is an iterative process that builds upon previous research and scans and allows for deeper searches as necessary given new findings or in seeking additional information.
The research methodology will influence the scope of the research and the information gathered to produce the initial report on the technology landscape or lists of technologies/alternatives/solutions. It also should present the critical questions and other considerations used to determine which technologies/alternatives/solutions should be evaluated further.
Identify Assumptions that Frame the Global Research Methodology:
Technologies/alternatives/solutions that potentially meet a given DHS requirement/need must be equitably compared. Assumptions may vary among potential solution alternatives that will affect costs, benefits or both. The differences in these assumptions must be evaluated fairly and may be compared with monetary results. Often, factors other than the performance/price ratio affect the choice of alternative.
Analysis of Information
The cost-benefit analysis is a quantifiable analysis for cost and return-on-investment values. The weighted-score analysis is a comprehensive analysis that includes the cost and return-on-investment plus qualitative factors such as implementation effort and impact, business environment, compliance with external and internal requirements, policy, etc. that must be considered when deciding on the best alternative.
Analyze the Costs and Benefits of the Most Viable Alternatives/ Potential Solutions:
Global research services should present the costs, quantifiable and non-quantifiable benefits, return-on-investment, net present value, etc. Global research and analysis of potential technologies/alternatives/solutions can be potentially presented in a tabular form so that data for costs and benefits for each technology/alternative/solution can be displayed for comparison. The data are then summarized and analyzed.
Conduct a Weighted-Score Analysis:
The weighted-score analysis involves assessing how well each technology/alternative/ solution satisfies each of several global research criteria (i.e., DHS mission, DHS requirements, schedule, cost, security, risk, etc.) and assigning a score reflecting that assessment. A weight is then applied to each score to reflect the relative importance of the criterion and can vary depending on the needs identified and the solutions space that bounds the needs. Finally, the weighted scores for all of the global research criteria for each technology/alternative/solution are summed and compared.
Recommended Courses of Action
The report should provide an unbiased analysis and recommendations on viable technologies, products and services that can advance DHS stakeholder capabilities. In researching and evaluating the technology landscape, a S&T group’s ability to leverage services to capture and analyze large amounts of data about the global technology and market environment is increasingly important. Advancements made throughout the private sector, university community and other entities of technology and product development (both internal and external, domestic and abroad, etc.) have the potential to significantly enhance the security capabilities of the HSE. When presented with new needs from the HSE or when considering starting new projects and tracking existing current projects, an understanding of the current technology environment will enhance the S&T group’s decision-making process and lead to higher quality of output to our HSE partners.
It is important to note that global research and analysis is often an iterative process. The number of iterations for a particular DHS requirement/need/solution set is likely to increase based upon the immaturity of the technology and the length of the projected timeframe to derive the capability. In other words, if the development and test program to deliver a new technology/capability is several years in length, it is only appropriate to consider periodic refreshment of the research that generated the initial recommendations for the approach undertaken. Also, if the research needed is basic in its nature, then it is likely that other entities (i.e., university community, national labs, etc.) are working in the same trade space and that their research is just as likely to yield results.
To put it simple, a global research service can be formed at a few government agencies in order to test this proposal. The potential for these kinds of activities to pay high returns-on-investment is quite high – based on the well-known lack of analysis of what technologies/solutions/capabilities already exist. In addition, government leaders need to reward and recognize those folks that solve critical problems in an efficient and effective way by making them heroes in the government and shepherds of the taxpayers’ money. Finally, government leaders should set the example of using global research services by getting involved in asking the questions and requiring the kind of information listed in Appendix A. It will gain them the respect of their team knowing that management cares about saving time and taxpayer money to solve the perplexing problems facing many governmental agencies today.
I wish to acknowledge all the hard-working people in both the government and private sector who contributed in bringing forth ideas on how to make government more impact in solving the perplexing issues involving in cybersecurity and many other areas. Special credit is given to all of my former co-workers and teammates at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the White House who always encouraged me to “think outside of the box” to make our government more agile and effective.
APPENDIX A: GLOBAL RESEARCH SERVICES – POTENTIAL CRITERIA AND TOPIC AREAS
General Background (examples only):
- Requirement Description
- Type of Product/Technology/Capability/IP
- Alignment to Government’s High Priority Technology Needs/Requirements
- TRL (Technology Readiness Level) required
- MRL (Manufacturing Readiness Level) required
Technical (examples only):
- Features and expected benefits
- Core benefit provided
- Differentiation compared to competitor Product/Technology/Capability/IP
- Application areas
- Target end users
- Technical support
- Quality assurance
Others (examples only):
- Growth Potential (i.e., market status, market size, production capability, market competitiveness, profitability)
- Business feasibility (i.e., investment size, risk level, existing equipment/technology, potential for mass production)
- Organization statistics
Typical questions posed by leadership validate the need for a global research service (examples only):
- What companies already possess this technology?
- What is their annual revenue?
- Are they a small or large business?
- Who owns the intellectual property?
- How mature is this technology?
- What are the current challenges of this technology?
- What are the benefits of this technology?
- What are other applications of the technology?
- What is their annual revenue?
- What is currently going on in terms of core and adjacent technology in our business purview?
- What are the technological challenges/problems emerging from the field?
- Who is leading the practical R&D and what is their focus and progress?
- What partnerships, consortia, regional clusters, organizations, etc. exist in these types of technologies?
- Is there government involvement in these organizations?
- What technologies are government labs, academia and industry actively promoting both domestically and globally? Why?!
- What is the state of development of other competitive technologies?