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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Keeping America Safe: 2019 Homeland Security Today Awards Honorees

Each year, Homeland Security Today honors shining stars in the community who are making their own unique, invaluable contributions to advance the mission of keeping America safer from myriad threats. Learn more about this year’s awardees ahead of the Dec. 11 awards ceremony in Washington.

Read about our Homeland Security Person of the Year, Mission Awards and GTSC Awards

Federal Small Business Champion

Katrina Brisbon, Assistant Administrator, Contracting and Procurement, Transportation Security Administration

Katrina Brisbon TSA photo

At GTSC’s recent Transportation Security 2019 forum, Katrina Brisbon advised contractors that it’s “very important that you lay out what value are you driving to a specific agency.” The packed room paying rapt attention to her copious contracting advice and forecast underscored the value that Brisbon brings to TSA. She has earned multiple awards for her commitment to the contracting community, which is testament to how she embraces the title of a small-business champion. As demonstrated in this interview with HSToday, Brisbon is candid about the landscape and earnest in helping contractors navigate it. Before TSA, she served as the chief of Procurement Policy and Oversight at the U.S. Coast Guard, providing oversight for procurement operations, managing the contracting career development program, executing internal controls and leading the development and implementation of procurement policy. Brisbon also served as the Defense Information Systems Agency’s vice procurement services executive and the vice director of the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization. She was named TSA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Contracting and Procurement – with a $3.8 billion acquisition portfolio – in November 2017. Brisbon also serves as the executive liaison to the DHS chief of procurement.

Acquisition Excellence

U.S. Coast Guard AUXDATA Procurement Team

Brenda E. Oberholzer, Contract Specialist; Lt. Nicholas M. Fredericksen, Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) & Technical Evaluation Team Chairperson; Lt. Carl N. Stokes, Program Manager, AUXDATA system; Shandra J. Kotzun, Procurement Law Attorney, C4IT Service Center, U.S. Coast Guard

Faced with finding a solution to a critical need in an efficient and effective way, the U.S. Coast Guard’s AUXDATA Procurement Team embraced an innovative process to steer an acquisition into port.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) had multiple known and unknown future needs to modernize its Workforce Management (WFM) and Customer Relations Management (CRM) IT tools which were fast approaching their end-of-life,” wrote Sandra Oliver Schmidt in the DHS Office of the Chief Procurement Officer, Procurement Innovation Lab, in her detailed nomination of the U.S. Coast Guard AUXDATA Procurement Team. “It was time to go out with a procurement to rapidly transition its dated, unreliable, self-hosted AUXDATA system to a cloud-hosted vendor-managed SaaS system that would be easily configurable, user-friendly, and highly reliable.” That would allow USCG teams to quickly locate and request assistance from a nearby Auxiliarist, a stumbling block on critical missions given the existing system.

The USCG team released a solicitation on the GSA IT Schedule 70 and utilized a three-phase procurement process with an advisory down-select between each phase. “Several other innovative procurement techniques were utilized to streamline the evaluation process,” Schmidt noted, including going straight to consensus and documenting their decision together after reviewing a paper or watching an oral presentation. “The slew of innovative procurement techniques allowed the USCG team to down-select from 17 companies to make 1 award in just over four months while only spending 11 days to evaluate quotes and write the technical consensus report.”

“This means that the evaluators could get back to their actual jobs supporting the USCG mission, not locked up in rooms evaluating quotes for weeks or months!”

Innovative Campaign to Forward Mission

Narrative Strategies

Dr Ajit Maan, Founder & CEO; Dr. Howard Clark, President; Paul Cobaugh, Vice President

Whether it’s 21st century terror recruitment or hostile actors conducting campaign influence operations on the 2020 vote, the team at Narrative Strategies knows that modern warfare often has little to do with conventional weapons. Founder and CEO Ajit Maan, Ph.D., is a security and defense policy analyst and a specialist in narrative strategies in radicalization processes. She is faculty at Union Institute and University’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program, George Mason University’s Center for Narrative Conflict Resolution, and is member of The Brain Trust of the Weaponized Narrative Initiative at Arizona State University. She is the author of Internarrative Identity: Placing the Self, Counter-Terrorism: Narrative Strategies, and co-editor of Soft Power on Hard Problems: Strategic Influence in Irregular Warfare.

Howard Clark, Ph.D., is a Marine Corps veteran with vast intelligence and counter-radicalization experience who has “also been a tireless advocate for soft power approaches, specifically narrative approaches, to conflict,” said Maan, noting that he is working to “train the next generation of war fighters about non-kinetic influence.”

Paul Cobaugh, retired from the U.S. Army as a warrant officer after a distinguished career in the Special Operations CT community, is vice president at Narrative Strategies and lauded the “ground-breaking” narrative warfare concept of “developing the tactics and research for resisting malign influence.” Maan, he said, ensures national security professionals receive mentoring “in order to develop defense strategy to fight the malign influence of extremists, near-peer competitors such as China and adversaries like Russia, Iran and violent extremists.”

Pamela Williamson of Sky Canopy Consulting stressed in her nomination to HSToday that Cobaugh “has made it his mission since he retired from the U.S. Army CT/CVE mission to write, advocate and work toward bringing the key importance of Strategic Communications Narrative top, front and central to the U.S. military,” doing so with “the personal empathy, compassion and ethical awareness and best practice high standards toward his audiences.”


Kevin Metcalf, Founder & CEO, National Child Protection Task Force

Kevin Metcalf

“Human trafficking and child exploitation cannot be stopped in isolation; it’s going to take a crowdsourced effort to identify these predators, locate their lairs, and take the fight to them,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Metcalf of the 4th Judicial District of Arkansas, founder of the National Child Protection Task Force (NCPTF), told HSToday in an interview early this year. “The National Child Protection Task Force is a collaborative effort between law enforcement, private organizations, nonprofit foundations, service providers, and highly skilled individuals. We all work very well separately with isolated effort but that can only get us so far; it’s time we set aside ego and jurisdiction to come together to attack this problem.”

At this year’s annual conference, the NCPTF provided essential training to law enforcement and prosecutors in areas such as how to identify and legally request the proper records, how to map and analyze records, how to conduct location-based investigations with no suspects, how to track cryptocurrency, and how to use OSINT. The training encourages multi-jurisdictional teams that would be able to span the country, sharing expertise and growing as collaborative units.

Metcalf’s holistic view of the National Child Protection Task Force is much bigger than just law enforcement. “We all share responsibility to make society a better place for everyone, especially our most vulnerable members,” he said. “We should be looking at this with the concept of before, during, and after phases instead of the current fragmented, egocentric, and jurisdictional model where career advancement is the key factor.”


Mark Ray, Director of Public Works, City of Crystal, Minnesota

Mark Ray is driven by the credo that a public works department is a critical cog in the homeland security apparatus, working in tandem with police and fire on multi-incident preparedness, mitigation and response. “Mark Ray has been a decisive force in changing the relationship to one of close collaboration and coordination. He is a trusted leader among both the public works and emergency response communities,” Eric Waage, director of Hennepin County Emergency Management, said in his nomination. “Mark has brought these groups together to meet, train, plan and exercise. He championed a resource sharing mutual aid agreement across the metro area.”

Ray is a member of the Department of Homeland Security State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Government Coordinating Council (SLTTGCC) and serves as the chairman of the American Public Works Association’s Emergency Management Committee. He also serves as APWA’s representative to National Homeland Security Consortium (NHSC).

“APWA members, including Mark, are also engaged with DHS a number of topics, including National Critical Functions, where they are looking for input from public works professionals,” wrote Douglas Hilderbrand of the National Weather Service in his nomination. “Furthermore, Mark has made a profound impact building relationships and fostering information-sharing between public works organizations and the National Weather Service. These stronger relationships and improved information sharing have increased national resilience to extreme weather, water, and climate events.”

Citizen of Mission

Brady Snakovsky, Brady’s K9 Fund

A cop dons protection against bullets and knives before heading out into the field, but what about the K9 sidekick? Brady’s K9 Fund was founded by Brady Snakovsky, an active 10-year-old in fourth grade in Strongsville, Ohio. He couldn’t understand why all K9 officers were not wearing a ballistic vest. After learning that these vests are not automatically issued to the K9s and are very expensive, Brady made it a mission to raise funds in order to protect those who protect us and make sure that every pup comes home at the end of their shift. To date, Brady’s K9 fund has supplied 131 K9 officers with lightweight bulletproof vests by raising $130,000; another 59 dogs are on the waiting list. This year, Brady was honored with the ASPCA’s Kid of the Year award “for identifying a life-threatening vulnerability for local police dogs and committing himself to their protection.” And he sees a future in protecting his community as well, telling WKYC, “I want to be a police officer because I want to help out other people and keep people safe.”

Most Valuable Player

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

Chris Krebs, Director; Brian Harrell, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection; Katherine Ledesma, Senior Policy Analyst; Matt Masterson, Senior Cybersecurity Advisor

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) just celebrated its first birthday, and it took the agency a 10-tweet thread just to begin to summarize all they have accomplished in that time. With its missions of comprehensive cyber protection, infrastructure resilience, emergency communication and risk management, CISA has been at the forefront of protecting both soft and hard targets from attack – sharing critical information and best practices with industry, ISACs and individuals along the way.

“Since its inception, CISA has played a pivotal role in dramatically improving the security safeguards of not only U.S. Government Agencies, but has had a significant impact on critical infrastructure enterprises which over 85 percent is in the hands of private sector enterprises,” wrote National Economic Security Alliance President and CEO Lynn Mattice in his nomination. “A major shift has been the establishment of the Risk Management Center within CISA charged with providing current data on risks faced by both public and private sector entities – along with recommended solutions to mitigate those risks. In addition, CISA is charged with working with state and local governments to ensure our election process is secure.”

One DHS employee lauded Director Chris Krebs’ “passion and resolve” for the mission, ensuring both civilian and government entities are informed of threats to their systems in a timely manner. “His approach, honest concern for our nation’s welfare, and patriotism are helping to change the public’s view of what a government leader can be.”

In his nomination of Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection Brian Harrell, Andy Jabbour, co-founder and managing director of The Gate 15 Company and the Faith-Based Information Sharing & Analysis Organization (FB-ISAO), said that Harrell “has been a road warrior, moving around the country and directly engaging industry, to include the community of faith, and building relationships, sharing insights, advancing partnership and information sharing, and developing a trust with the owners and operators of the infrastructure out nation depends on.”

“Brian had a passion for the mission before assuming his current role,” Jabbour added. “Upon taking the reins at ISD, he has aggressively and decisively engaged his team and the critical partners needed to  advance the collective accomplishment of our homeland security mission and the National Preparedness Goal to have a secure and resilient nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.”

HSToday’s 2019 Homeland Security Person of the Year

Excellence in Outreach


Federal Emergency Management Agency Team

Dan Kaniewski, Deputy Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency; Lizzie Litzow, Press Secretary, Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Federal Emergency Management Agency team will not ease up on its relentless outreach efforts until a culture of preparedness is a way of life for all Americans. Their messaging isn’t just about advising people to stock up on canned goods in the event of a disaster, but teaching communities how to become more resilient to weather incidents and bounce back faster. One key focus for Deputy Administrator for Resilience Daniel Kaniewski has been making financial preparedness a top priority in the agency’s strategic plan as many Americans don’t have rainy-day funds and about 70 percent of disaster losses are uninsured. Kaniewski’s team uses facts, data, trends and other assets from the insurance industry, public and private sector sources, risk management experts, economists, mitigation leaders and any other resource he can find to drive the issue of resilience to the forefront of public discourse, investment and decision making. The messages are spread on social media, through speeches and events, and through media partners, delivering the truth about resilience to the broadest possible audience.

Stephanie Yanta, Behavioral Analysis Profiler, Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), Behavioral Threat Assessment Center (BTAC)

A 21-year veteran of the FBI, Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Stephanie Yanta has fostered novel partnerships to better secure communities from terrorism and targeted violence. Yanta, with a background of service as an officer in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps, is a Behavioral Analysis Profiler in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), Behavioral Threat Assessment Center (BTAC). She has directly engaged with countless case teams within all levels of law enforcement and provided expert advice and guidance to not just assess threats, but most importantly provide actionable threat management and even disruption strategies. “Her efforts have undoubtedly thwarted a myriad of horrific acts,” said her nominating supervisor.

Yanta knows, appreciates, and embraces the team approach to tackling complex problems and has always enjoyed and sought both law enforcement partnerships as well as non-traditional partnerships, such as outreach on current threats through HSToday Law Enforcement Webinars. She is also a regular guest presenter to a variety of audiences, including academia, law enforcement and the private sector. Yanta leads a collaborative effort with the UK and other trusted foreign partners on preventing acts of targeted violence, and is keen on sharing both lessons learned and cutting-edge methods of improving homeland security to better posture our front-line forces in the detection, assessment, management and mitigation of potential threats and/or persons of concern.


Terry Hastings, Senior Policy Advisor, New York State Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services

To better understand emergency preparedness in New York state in a systematic, data-driven way, the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) developed the County Emergency Preparedness Assessment (CEPA). CEPA, overseen by senior policy advisor Terry Hastings, uses in-person workshops with local emergency management partners to assesses a county’s risks, capabilities, and potential need for support during disasters. CEPA helps state and local partners make informed decisions about how to further build and sustain their preparedness capabilities to address risks and potential resource gaps. The CEPA process involves continuous outreach to all 58 counties (including New York City) across the state, to include planning and scheduling the meetings, facilitating the workshops, and sharing insights and findings from the data collected. Each facilitated workshop is composed of county officials from emergency management, law enforcement, fire services, public health, transportation, environment conservation and numerous other local public safety organizations. Nonprofit agencies and private-sector partners participate as well to ensure a broad and inclusive perspective is included. DHSES engages more than 1,400 stakeholders and aggregates the data provided to identify statewide trends that can be used to inform grant investments, planning and programmatic decisions, and overall understanding of preparedness in New York.


Colonel David Hines, Sheriff, Hanover County, VA

Colonel David R. Hines, Sheriff of Hanover County, Va., has developed homeland security measures to partner with federal, state, local and private-sector partners through multiple innovative initiatives that are at the core of Sheriff’s Office operations. These innovations include efforts to educate the public about homeland security priorities, threats and vulnerabilities; promote suspicious activity reporting; and fostering state, national and international partnerships that led to the development of the Hanover Sheriff’s Office SHIELD initiative and the Global SHIELD Network, incorporating a community policing strategy that provides a formal platform for any citizen to partner with the Sheriff’s Office and receive not only the latest terrorism information from around the world but local and regional crime trends as well. The foundation for the SHIELD initiative in Hanover County was built on streamlining already established partners in the Neighborhood Watch, Business Watch and Worship Watch programs; 160 churches actively participate in the Worship Watch program. The model has been shared with multiple metropolitan police agencies to assist them in developing a SHIELD initiative. International law enforcement from have also reached out to the Hanover Sheriff’s Office in their efforts to develop a similar model.

HSToday Honors Community Stars: 2019 Mission Awards

Leaders in Mission Partnerships: The 2019 GTSC Award Winners

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